The city of Bellevue is planting some 1,000 donated giant sequoias this fall in parks and open space throughout the community.
On Saturday, Nov. 16, 30 volunteers from Cedar Crest Academy planted about 300 of the two-foot-tall seedlings at Wilburton Hill Park. The remainder of the donated trees were planted at Ardmore, Kelsey Creek, and Airfield parks, as well as Forest Park Meadows Open Space.
The effort will help the city fulfill its goal of achieving a 40 percent tree canopy.
Giant sequoias are a fast-growing, pest-resistant, drought-tolerant species that can live as long as 3,000 years. Philip Stielstra, a Boeing retiree and tree ambassador, approached the city about the donation of sequoia seedlings (worth $8,000) from Propagation Nation, a Seattle nonprofit that locates and propagates sequoia and redwood trees.
Over the last five years, native trees in the city – including western red cedar, western hemlock and Douglas fir – have had a higher mortality rate due to drought stress, which makes trees more vulnerable to fungal disease, insects and other pathogens. This project supports the long-term health of the city’s urban forest.
“We feel it’s directly related to the really, really dry summers we’ve had the last four or five years with the exception of this last summer,” said Rick Bailey, Bellevue forest management program supervisor. “Western hemlock has a very shallow root system and we feel that there’s less water available in the soil for that particular tree.”
Bailey said Sequoias, on the other hand, are more adapted to warmer climates and the hope is that by swapping tree species it will provide a more robust and healthy tree presence in local parks in the future.
Bailey explained it is the first time the city has planted Sequoia’s in large quantities but by no means the first time it has planted the tree. Bailey said for the last 20 years the tree species has been slowly planted in the Bellevue park system and points to Lake Hills Connector as an example where a group of about 20 Sequoias was replanted and thrived.
“They tolerate really harsh environments as far as soils go,” Bailey said. “It seems like no matter where you put them, they adapt, grow and grow really fast.”
Bailey said the city plans to actively plant sequoias in subsequent years and has an order of about 1,000 Sequoia seedlings coming in by next January.
“We’re going to transplant those into larger pots and then actually grow them at our nursery for a year or two,” Bailey said. “The hope is to be able to plant pretty much at least a 1,000 or so annually from here on moving forward.”