Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia Glyptostroboides, The Living Fossil in my Yard
Dawn Redwood is a living fossil endangered in the wild that you can plant and grow at home, providing that you have adequate space. It seems like a magical thing - this mighty tree with such delicate foliage is a giant that produces cones the size of marbles.
It is coniferous, yet deciduous.
Dawn redwood's cinnamon colored bark catches the sun in late afternoon and faeries seem to lurk in the deeply rippled trunk. Grow Dawn redwood and touch antiquity.
Many people here in the United States are familiar with the coast redwoods and giant sequoias of California, those magnificent giants that turn a forest into a cathedral. Some of us easterners dream of those beautiful places, of the nobility of those ancient trees that seem to stand like ladders to heaven.
But you don't have to travel to California. You can plant a Dawn redwood, a metasequoia glyptostroboides - providing you have a large enough piece of property or are crazy - like me!
Okay, so my husband was right. Maybe it is too big for our yard. But Dawn redwood is the tree of sweet dreams, of soft feathered foliage, of cool, deep shadows and some mystical connection to the spirits that dwell in those branches.
Dawn Redwood History
Dawn redwood was known to arborists only through the fossil record from its heyday 50 million years ago. Dawn redwood fossils have been found in northern Canada and in the badlands of western North Dakota.
Then, in the 1940s, a forest of Dawn redwoods was fund growing in the remote province of Szechwan, China. In 1948, seeds were collected and shipped to the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University where they were studied and cultivated.
In the 1980s, it was noticed that the second generation of Dawn redwoods suffered form inbreeding depression. Since only three threes were used as the original source of seeds, there was no genetic diversity. Second generation Dawn redwoods were susceptible to disease and reproductive failure. In the 1990s, seed collecting expeditions were sent to China and new seeds obtained. The genetic diversity available due to the collection of more specimens resulted in hardy, healthy trees.
Dawn Redwood at the National Arboretum in DC
Dawn redwoods are deciduous coniferous trees - that is - the trees produce cones but lose their foliage in the fall. They can be confused with Bald cypress but Bald cypress leaves are arranged in spirals while Dawn redwood leaves grow in an opposite arrangement. Dawn redwoods will not grow knees like Bald cypress, a tree that enjoys swampy conditions.
Dawn redwood appreciates full sun and moist, deep, well drained soil. They withstand flooding and are somewhat drought tolerant. A fast grower, Dawn Redwood reaches 70' - 100' in height with a 25' spread.
Dawn redwood trunks are remarkably straight and the tree grows in a tall, slender, pyramidal shape. They are hardy and care-free. With their cinnamon colored, exfoliating bark and deciduous nature, Dawn redwoods are quite the conversation piece. The leaves turn a lovely cinnamon-bronze in fall.
In order to cultivate a Dawn redwood with the distinctive contorted boles that produce the rippled effect of the trunk, do not limb up. Purchase a tree with lower limbs intact and do not remove those lower limbs.
Dawn redwood is monoecious, which means the tree is both male and female, bearing both seed producing cones (female) and panticles (the male part) which are clusters that hang from the branches. I've had two saplings - one given away, another sold at a flea market. This spring, I found several tiny seedlings growing near the tree and hope to nurse them along to a decent size for sale or to attempt bonsai. Check out the little babies in the photo as well as the tiny cones.
The nearest Dawn redwood that I know of is about 1.2 a mile away, grown by some other Dawn redwood besotted fool - only theirs' is in the front yard. About a mile and a half away, two Dawn redwood grow in the front yard of a house, giving the home the look of a cottage in a fairy tale.
Dawn redwood with bird calls
Dawn Redwood - Endangered in the Wild
There is only one remaining Dawn redwood forest in existence in China with approximately 5,000 trees. Due to prolific cone collecting, the number of seedlings are in decline. Without natural reproduction, the beautiful Dawn redwood forest of Sichuan, China is an endangered ecosystem. How sad that the popularity of this incredible specimen should be the cause of its demise in the wild. I hope that China restricts cone collecting in order to protect the Dawn redwood forest.
In the Eastern United States at Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Nature Preserve in North Caroline, attempts are being made to reintroduce the Dawn redwood into a natural setting.
You can see Dawn Redwoods at the United States National Arboretum in Washington,DC; at Longwood Gardens in eastern Pennsylvania; at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St.Louis, and atMarquand Park in New Jersey.
If you are passing through a neighborhood and spot a tall, graceful tree poking up above the canopy, check it out, it may be a Dawn redwood.
If you know of a park or public garden where Dawn redwoods grow, please leave the information in a comment below so that people can see a magnificent Dawn redwood in person.
Dawn Redwood Seedlings and Cones
- DC Outdoors - the National Arboretum, Our National Tree Museum
the US National Arboretum, America's tree collection and national garden is a sprawling botanical garden in north west Washington DC for DC visitors interested in plants, trees, nature, shrubs, landscaping, Bonsai, conifers, perennial gardens and spe