Intertwining Roots – A Lesson on Community


Huge vertical redwood copyRedwood trees have always impressed me. From a seed no bigger in size than a tomato seed, they grow as tall as 35 story buildings. In fact, their height helps them survive in dry seasons as it helps them live on only the moisture they are able to extract from fog. Condensing the mist against their trucks, redwoods create fog drips that cool and roll down grooves in their bark flowing down the length of the tree to the roots that nurture it. Resistant to insects, able to withstand fires and floods, subject to no diseases, they endure for ages with no natural enemies but man.

You probably know all of that, but I recently learned something from a business training model about redwoods that surprised me…and set me to thinking.

redwood roots tells us: “You would think that a 350-foot-tall tree would need deep roots, but that’s not the case at all with the Sequoia sempervirens. Redwood tree roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep. But they make up for it in width, sometimes extending up to 100 feet from the trunk. They thrive in thick groves, where the roots can intertwine and even fuse together. This gives them tremendous strength against the forces of nature. This way they can withstand high winds and raging floods.”

sequoia tribe of three trees copySo, redwoods do not survive alone…ever. They form “tribes” or communities. Sometimes they grow so close to each other they merge at the base into one tree. The first thing they provide each other is strength and support: intertwining roots.  Not deep, but wide, living in an embrace of others.

twin sequoia with girl copyThe merged roots also meet their needs for nurture. The entire system relies on their rooted connections.

(Left twin merged sequoia, to the right, three united trees.)

On the National Park System sequoia page I found out that “The coast redwood environment recycles naturally; because the annual rainfall leaves the soil with few nutrients, the trees rely on each other, living and dead for their vital nutrients.” ( As a redwood tree dies, it decays and the nutrients it has absorbed over the ages are released back into the community through the roots, nourishing the other trees. And the community replaces that member by sending a new sprout up from their roots.

sequoia tribe copyIt’s no wonder that redwoods have inspired the  latest “organizational culture” model, a new Fish Philosophy, Who Moved My Cheese, Star Thrower, Open Source look at what creates success in corporate management. The sequoia “business” model guarantees enduring success and sustains massive growth….but only if the trees work as a team and support each other. The critical key to survival and growth is  interdependence.   (Right Sequoia tribe tree)

massive ca redwoods copyBut I think this is a lesson that is applicable not just to business but to our own need for communities, individually and as nations. Like the redwoods, we cannot survive alone. People do need alone time, and space for individualism to be content and personally creative, but there are moments in a life that also needs friends and neighbors and groups of like-minded people. We need others  to help us think past what we can alone, to help us solve life problems, to share their strength in our times of need. I would argue that this redwood kind of inter-reliance is needed for health, individual and collective, for us all to survive and thrive.

redwoods upward view copyEven spiritually, as much as I value meditation time, walks at the ocean alone with “Intimations of Immorality” on my mind, I am refreshed by deep talks with others, friends and family. I need them to challenge my thought and nourish my spirit, and for me, as well, I need the comforting ritual, the remembered songs and prayers, the heart and mind community of a worshipping family of faith to nourish me.

giant-redwood man showing girth copyI think when we and our world withdraw our roots…try to restrict them to me and mine, we make an egregious mistake. Withdrawing and distancing from others does not make us stronger. We hurt ourselves, limit that which can nurture us, open ourselves to injuries that can only be survived by connections. Isolationism and xenophobia fuel hatred and blame. They are failed strategies that lead more often to war than to the safety they promise.

redwood dying copyIn the face of Britain’s exit from the EU, where Populism and promises of renewed national strength spoke to many, I would warn them and those here in the US who echo the same arguments to take a look at what happens when loggers cut down redwoods.  Not only are the trees they take killed, but the other redwoods that remain in the tribe often die. Without the missing trees to share water and nutrients, the remaining members becomes less healthy and sometimes cannot even survive.

Tall redwoods copyOur world seems to scream at us that helping others hurts you, and standing alone is better than uniting together. Sometimes, while I do understand the fear of change and of the unknown, and the gut response to forces and politicians that inflame that fear, I wish I could get people to look up and out.

redwoods with streamThere are resources out there in the world still. They may not be mineral, or oil, as much as wind, sun, and PEOPLE.

America has always been made stronger by being united as states and united with the world. Accepting the gifts of those who came to our shores has added to our resources…even when they were poor when they came, like my grand parents. Just like love, which is not diminished when a new child is born into a family, but grows as it is divided among ever larger numbers, we grow our country by welcoming others. And it is in tough times, we most need to reach out into our tribes and communities, knot our roots into even tighter bonds and stand strong together against the fires that race towards us or the floods that threaten to wash us away.

To me, that is the lesson that rustles in the leaves, it’s the strength we can feel in our roots, it’s a model for living we can learn from the redwoods.

About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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37 Responses to Intertwining Roots – A Lesson on Community

  1. lisaorchard1 says:

    I love this post, Joanne. You draw some valid conclusions about communities. I love nature and I think we as humans could learn a lot from it. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t know all of this about the redwood trees. I hope to get out to California sometime and see them. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. robjodiefilogomo says:

    What a great analogy for these trees and us! Are those your pictures? They are so amazing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a beautiful post, Jo, and expressing sentiments that I share. I love the metaphor of the redwood and will use it, I’m sure, in my role as a volunteer in my community. I didn’t know this about these magnificent trees. Sometimes I think nature has all the answers to our most important questions. We are “of nature” and it makes sense that the laws that govern the natural world would apply to us as well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Little Voice says:

    Reblogged this on that little voice and commented:
    Joan at does a wonderful job of tying our lives with all of nature. Together we are strong and united.


  5. Pingback: Intertwining Roots – A Lesson on Community – that little voice

  6. Joyful2bee says:

    Beautiful piece! I wrote a poem about the Sequoias. This information is fascinating and so true!! Thank you for the great photos too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eugenia says:

    Nice meeting you and great post. I came over from Little Voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bernadette says:

    Joanne, First thanks for the lesson on the Redwoods. It is interesting to learn about their eco system but, of course, when applied to humans takes on an even more interesting idea. Stagnation and lack of growth comes from going to a nurturing source that has not been replenished with the different minerals (ideas) that are needed for renewal and growth. A very though provoking post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. donnagawell says:

    I’m so glad you found my website because that led me to find yours! What a treasure. I signed up to follow you. This article is a lovely lesson about so many aspects of life. Thank you for writing. BTW- I wrote a historical novel and it is under contract, so sometimes finding an agent or publisher works!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. delphini510 says:

    Thank you Joanne for this wonderful article. I loved learning so much about those huge Redwoods – Sequoia – , they are so beautiful and majestic. How fantastic the roots intermingle to strengthen a base that would be otherwise too weak, how they gain nutrients and water. All fantastic as are your photos.
    Their reliance upon each other is like in old type villages and small communities.
    Nature truly is spiritual and wise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      It really is. Hopefully we all find ways to build those kind of communities with family and friends and hopefully neighbors. We moved here from a beautiful small town (5000) plus where we knew so many people. Loved it there!


  11. Amanda Disbrow says:

    I absolutely LOVE this! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. DAVID MILITZER says:

    I have been looking for biological evidence that can confirm life as an expression of an infinite multitude of unique gifts and the underlying unity of connection that sustains our world, and each of us. Thank you Joanne, this is very very helpful. I’m an educator, and particularly focused on how educators can understand our youth and their struggle to establish who they are and how they fit in. I recently stumbled upon a reference to redwoods as having intertwined roots, which I understand as not belonging to any one tree more then other trees in the network. I believe we need new metaphors, and a new narrative that we can inculcate in our education of our kids that underscores these relationships, and helps them make sense of the world and their place in it.
    Thank you for providing this background. I work for the CA Dept. of Education, yet will leave my personal email as this wisdom is not yet part of what we are talking about for education reform. Although I believe we are on the brink.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Thank you, David! I think the redwoods are just one metaphor for the value of community, the need to share our individual gifts to the mutual benefit of all. We thrive and communities are enriched by our intersection and connection.



    Dear Joanneeddy,
    Thanks for sharing this information about the redwoods. It is truly inspiring.We have a grate lesson to learn from redwoods. If we all help one another like the redwoods for their survival then there will be no sufferings in this world…
    Thank You

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Kathleen Christenson says:

    sunday, june 16, 2019 3:37pm My lonely coastal redwood, sequoia, has stood beside my home at the corner of the block for about 40 years. People of our town walk by to admire it and ask about it. It has outlived the person, my husband, who planted it here when it was only a little tree about 3 feet tall. It had a brother or sister when first planted but that died after just a couple years. It has no family to give it stability but seems to be doing OK apparently because the street and other homes nearby help to hold it in place. Maybe, too, because it feels the love from my family and the towns-people. We live only a couple blocks from the ocean so it gets plenty of mist and sunshine. I’m so glad I read about it for I was in the process of arranging for it to be cut down within the next two weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      I love the story of your “lonely” redwood…but it does sounds like it was also a loved tree with your husband and you and your neighborhood as its community. I hope it is still standing tall!


  15. Brenda says:

    A poignant essay on interdependence!
    As a vegetable gardener, I find my most productive plants aren’t the ones in a single pot… but the ones rooted in Earth amongst other plants. Thinking of this invisible nurturing root system is uplifting to my soul!
    Thank you for crafting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Thank you for writing! I actually felt that same spiritual uplift when I learned of this. (I even used it as a story illustration in a sermon!) Like you I am a fervent gardener and love to do beds with thoughts on how things group together and live in harmony….tomatoes and basil, Bee balm and peppers, and oregano mixed into a flower bed as well!


  16. Peggy Hansen says:

    Dear Joan, Interestingly, as we all sit in lock-down isolation I felt a need to research Redwoods and their roots….and i found you. This is so beautiful, and timely! And even if we are feeling isolated…we are all still connected on a root level…even fused. This, I believe is what will sustain us…as we remember that we are all Comm-Unity. Thank you so much for your inspiring essay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Thank you so much, Peggy. Unity in Community, Creating Opportunity was actually the title of a workshop I created at one point in my career. This is a deep belief and when I discovered the Redwoods information it made so much sense to me. At this point, I even more strongly believe we need to find our interconnection and support one another.


  17. This is a fascinating concept, one that we need now more than ever!
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Trees and Faith | Michelle Ule, Author

  19. I absolutely love and appreciate the connections made between our quiet giants and their examples of survival and our own communities, especially in the light of this pandemic and the fires we have had here in Northern California. Just went out to my touchstone hike at Pt Reyes and saw for the first time the scarred majesty of so many of the redwoods. A fire so hot, that these normally resilient warriors, were charred through. Life is starting to grow back around them, but what we have lost in their contribution to the land is significant. Thank you for a lovely, incitement piece.


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