I was initially inclined to create an article about these magnificent trees upon seeing two mature specimens cared for by a plant ecologist at Eastern Illinois University. Dawn Redwoods appear similar to Bald Cypress trees, although these have more buttressed trunks, drooping branches/foliage, and Giant Sequoia/Coast Redwood like cones. These were discovered in China in the 1900’s, where only 3 specimens remained. These are critically endangered, with about 5,000 in their native habitat, although many gardens and universities (emu, siuc) have these. Discovered as fossils 50,000,000 years ago, these trees are truly miraculous.
Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood)
Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Height: usually 21-30 meters (70-100 feet)
Diameter: spreads 4.5-7.5 meters (15-25 feet), buttressed bases are broad and tapered
Growth Rate: fast
Age: Most cultivated species are younger than 70 years old due to its recent discovery.
Root System: aggressive, wide, shallow
Tolerates: deer, clay soil, wet soil, air pollution
Problems (major): no serious issues
Problems (minor): none
Soil requirements: Moist, humusy, well-drained soils are preferred. Seeds germinate best in sandy soils.
Air Requirements: Air pollution usually isn’t a problem.
Watering requirement: medium to wet soil
Sun requirement: Full sun
Needles: These grow on narrow, pyramid-shaped branches. Foliage, arranged in a flat spray (like Taxus ssp.,Sequoia ssp., Sequoiadendron ssp., and Taxodium ssp.) have less prominent midribs than Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum var. distichum). These they fall to the ground after turning a beautiful orange in late autumn.
Cones (male): up to 1/2″, globose
Cones (female): up to 3/4″, ovular, light to deep brown at maturity, strongly resemble Giant Sequoia cones
Seeds require stratification: yes
Monoecious or Dioecious: monoecious
Trunk: pyramidal, heavily buttressed with age, orange/brown
Form: VERY finely pyramidal with upright diagonal branches to 46 degrees
This tree was first brought to North America shortly after three living specimens were identified in Southwest China in the autumn of 1947 by T. Kan (a Chinese forester at that time). It was thought to be extinct, especially since fossils of this species were dated at around 50,000,000 years old. This tree appears very similar to sequoias, and its foliage is often compared to Bald-Cypress trees. However, the more I look at Bald Cypress and Dawn Redwoods, the less alike they appear to me (the article on this journal describing Taxodium distichum elaborates further on their differences).
This tree is occasionally used as a street tree or in rain gardens. The tree has been widely cultivated, and many living specimens now exist because it grows easily and quickly. This is a good specimen tree, but space must be considered due to its growth rate.
Two Dawn Redwood seedlings that germinated in May (collected in early December at Eastern Illinois University)
Newly produced male strobili (cones)
buttressed trunk and lower branches
Foliage and a mature, opened female cone
The lower half of a Dawn Redwood
A very wide and buttressed trunk
a higher up section of the main trunk
mature specimens at Mobot with strictly pyramidal form
The images provided were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited/referenced first.