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Plants from the Ground Up

Metasequoia glyptostroboides – The Dawn Redwood

Metasequoia glyptostroboides is one of the most remarkable trees the world has ever known. Known as the dawn redwood, it is a glorious deciduous conifer which reaches an impressive 70-150 feet tall. This tree eventually develops into a distinctly conical shape and features lovely, feathery light-green needles which are soft to the touch.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides - DAWN REDWOOD

Metasequoia glyptostroboides – DAWN REDWOOD


Metasequoia glyptostroboides is different from most conifers in that it loses its leaves in the autumn. The foliage drops after turning gorgeous shades of apricot and copper.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Fall color

Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Fall color


The dawn redwood also has a wonderfully unique story! Fossil records show that it existed as many as 50,000,000 years ago and until the 1940’s it was only known to exist from these records. It was long believed to be extinct in the modern age. In 1944, to the worlds surprise and delight, Chinese forester T. Kan found an enormous specimen growing in the Sichuan province of China near the town of Modaoqi. Seeds were collected from this tree and brought to the west in 1948 by a team funded by the Arnold Arboretum and Harvard University. Today these majestic trees still exist in the wild; however, due to habitat loss they are considered endangered. There are programs in China to protect the dawn redwood and they are now being widely replanted. The dawn redwood has become a source of national pride for the Chinese people.

The foliage and bark of Metasequoia glyptostroboides resemble that of their American relative Taxodium distichum, the bald cypress.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Foliage

Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Foliage


Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Bark

Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Bark


The dawn redwood is relatively carefree and is very fast growing. The largest dawn redwood known was in China and it reached an impressive 165 feet in height with a trunk over seven feet wide before being killed by a lightning strike. Today the tallest tree resides in Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania where it was planted in 1948; it is currently 135 feet tall.

As the tree matures, the trunk thickens at the base and develops striking and ornate buttresses. The reddish-brown, flaky bark on established trees is often deeply fissured. Trees are monoecious (having male and female flowers on the same plant). They produce ¾” oblong, brown female cones and smaller, pendent ½” male cones. The twigs and needles appear in opposite pairs. This lovely tree is easily grown in most soil types including loam and sand. While it likes even moisture it tolerates some drought and flooding as well. The tree’s native range is only a little more than 200 square miles in China, it is however, a well-loved ornamental tree around the world. Although it does need a lot of room to grow it does well in urban areas, as it tolerates pollution. The dawn redwood is USDA winter hardy to zone 4.

For more photos and information, see Metasequoia glyptostroboides at the Forestfarm Store.

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