Albino Redwoods


Arborist Tom Stapleton is on a quest with botany undergraduate Zane Moore to find all the locations of albino redwoods. From searching deep in the forest to backyard suburban setting, they have traveled hundreds of miles to search out and try to solve the mystery of what causes albinism in one of California’s most famous trees. Albinism, which makes normal foliage appear white, is caused by a genetic mutation that is not yet fully understood.  By carefully documenting each location, they are trying to determine if geography and climate are playing a role to cause this rare phenomenon.

SONY DSCTom Stapleton is certified arborist with a passion of researching and propagating very rare albino redwoods. He & fellow research colleague Zane Moore have traveled hundreds of miles to search out and document the distribution of these very unique trees. Presently both men know of over 300 various albino sites in and outside of the natural range. Some of Tom’s accomplishments include the successful campaign to save & relocate the worlds tallest chimeric redwood known as the Cotati Tree in 2014. He also has been the first to successfully asexual propagate an albino redwood variant known as a chimera in 1997. Chimeric redwoods consisting of different sets of DNA are extremely rare & only fifteen are known to exist in the wild. Tom hopes by propagating these trees in a controlled environment will lead to the definitive causes of albinism in redwoods. His ongoing research in a greenhouse setting has less of an environmental impact than working with albinos in the forest. It also could lead to better interpretation and protection of redwoods in the natural range. Currently Tom is working with botanists and other scientists to better understand the distribution and causes of albinism in redwoods.

Zane MooreZane Moore is an undergraduate botany student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. He currently studies chlorophyll-deficient plants: specifically their morphology, physiology, and evolution with his mentor, Dr. David Steingraeber. Tom Stapleton, arborist, and Zane have been researching albino redwoods with him since January 2013. He is a California State Parks docent and researcher at Big Basin and commonly gives talks to both Big Basin and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parks. In his free time, Zane works with other aspiring young scientists as a Resident Assistant in CSU’s College of Natural Science’s Learning Community at Laurel Village. His interests also include measuring the extents of tall and large trees, and one of Zane’s many discoveries in this area is the tallest tree in the world south of San Francisco, a 100-meter redwood tree in Big Basin.

Read an article about their research at Save the Redwoods here.

Read about their research on National Geographic here


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