Return of the Redwood to Northern Michigan

The diversity of flora in Northern Michigan is staggering, but a few Up North environmental enthusiasts are working to introduce a majestic and rather conspicuous plant species to the area: the redwood.  The following story was featured in the March 2014 edition of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine:

The year was 1968, and Dr. Gulav Uhlich was just a guy looking to build a deck at his Petoskey home. But he found a new life obsession when someone suggested he use redwood for the project. Uhlich had never heard of redwood, but when he researched it, he became enchanted with the ancient behemoths. “The thing for me is that these trees can live 2,000 years,” he says. “Imagine what can be learned from something that lives 2,000 years.” As he dug deeper, he discovered that many species of redwood—a tree synonymous with the American West Coast—were native to Michigan. He landed on a variety called the dawn redwood: a curious conifer that populated this region some 2.5 million years ago, and whose soft, fernlike needles turn a brilliant yellow in the fall before dropping. As it so happened, 2.5 million years later, the dawn redwood is still well suited for Michigan’s climate, so Uhlich obtained a sapling and planted it in his backyard. “I call it my ‘Christmas Tree forever,’” he says.

Now, Uhlich has teamed up with Petoskey landscaper Richard Hoffman, who raises dawn redwoods, on a mission to see these trees across the North once again. They estimate 250 have been planted in the region so far, mostly on private property, and hope to see quadruple that someday. If properly cared for, the trees will grow a foot or two each year before reaching a maximum height of 200 feet tall and, yes, live for two millennia. Plant a legacy: Get your own sapling via Richard Hoffman Landscaping (231.347.0630). Or, check out the state’s biggest redwood, a giant sequoia, at Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary north of Manistee.

Please visit for more information on the Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary.

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Article Comments

  • I don’t exactly live in Northern Michigan, but rather in a suburb of Detroit, north of there. i would gladly try to raise a couple in my large yard, to see if they would also grow in this part of Michigan. I fell madly in love with the Redwood when I visited California, and walked around a Redwood forest, and walking around one single tree was practically like walking around a city block! I had seen photographs when i was young of a tree out there that had a tunnel cut through it for a car to pass through, and it is true, someone really did carve a road right through a Redwood tree. The variety out there is mostly of a type called the Sequoyah, which is also my Native name, so it also served to catch my attention. I like the idea of replacing native plants back into their former environments. i have also been wanting to plant trees in honor of people that I know who have died, rather than sending flowers to funerals, and wasteful things like that. We need trees to help to clean the air of carbon monoxide, to turn it into carbon dioxide and oxygen. So if someone could let me know how to obtain some of these trees, I would be interested in two of them for my yard to start with. Anyone else out there interested in trying to bring back the species?

    • Christa Linderer

      I bought a fast-growing redwood tree at the Farmington Farmers Market today. Small enough to fit in the passenger side of my car but I saw a picture how it looks like 2 years later. Impressive. It likes moist soil but will also grow in drier soil. Like sun.