California’s Extremely Rare and Haunting Albino Redwoods

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If you are walking through Henry Cowell State Park in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains and you happen to be extremely lucky, you might catch a glimpse of white between the thick trunks of California coastal redwoods. Here, in central California, live the mysterious phantom trees called albino redwoods. The best guess is that there are no more than 100 in the world, and perhaps as few as 25, and scientists still have not figured out why they’re white.

Well, not quite true. Albinos are white because they lack chlorophyll, which gives redwood needles their green and converts sunlight into sugar to feed the tree. But precisely why albinos have mutated isn’t clear, and scientists unraveling the redwood genome to find out have a particularly tough job ahead of them: Unlike humans, which have two sets of chromosomes, the coastal redwoods have six. Good luck with that, kids.

This segment from KQED provides a nice overview on albino redwoods. If you’re more the reading type, there’s a nice overview filled with words here.

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