Rare Half-Albino Redwood Tree Is Safe, For Now

One rare, half-albino redwood in California was slated to be chopped down, but local outcry has saved it

This half-albino redwood tree has swirls of green and yellowish-white, as well as male and female cones. ROBERT GALBRAITH/Reuters/Corbis

A rare, half-albino redwood tree in California was slated to be cut down this spring, as Smithsonian wrote in March. But residents of Cotati, a Sonoma County town, made a push to save the tree, and the regional railroad that was planning to raze it has now decided to move the 52-foot-tall redwood, the San Francisco Chronicle reports

Albino redwood trees are truly strange. They sprout white foliage and lack the chlorophyl necessary to photosynthesize. But the Cotati tree is even more rare, since it's only half albino. There are only 10 known chimeras like this one, although this is the biggest. Its needles alternate between green and yellowish-white—a slightly less spectacular coloration than a true albino. This chimera actually contains the genes of two different plants, one albino and one regular; this also allows it to produce both male and female cones, making it hermaphroditic (or if you want to be technical, monoecious).

Since true albino trees cannot produce their own sugars, they must link roots with other trees and steal nutrients to survive. But half of this tree can produce chlorophyl, which means it's grown to its current height on its own fuel.

Moving the tree will be no small task. Workers will have to dig a hole that is about 30 feet across to be able to get the whole tree's root ball, Colorado State University botany student Zane Moore told NPR. After it is moved, it should be visible by commuters on the new transit line. Let's hope it survives the move okay.

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