Searching for California’s mysterious albino redwood

It’s an evergreen that’s white. It lives like a moocher and looks like a ghost. It’s a genetic marvel, wrapped in an enigma.

Albino redwoods grow along the fog-drenched coast of central and Northern California, but their locations are closely guarded to protect them from trophy-clippers and decorators.

Across a steep canyon, a ghost floats in the darkness—a phantom in this redwood forest, somewhere in California’s Santa Cruz County.

We slip-slide into the gully, landing in spongy piles of discarded needles, ferns, and poison oak, and then we scale the other slope. A great horned owl hoots once, twice, three times. Dawn is just beginning to tickle the treetops, but down here, beneath the forest canopy, it’s still chilly twilight.

A few feet away, the astonishingly white tree hovers like an otherworldly apparition, its crown high above our heads. It’s an albino redwood. An enigma. A biological improbability—an organism that shouldn’t exist.

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