Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
The Dawn Redwood is a fascinating international tree. It has been growing on this planet for 50 million years, but the first evidence we got that it ever existed was through fossils collected in Japan about 60 years ago. Then shortly thereafter, a number of live specimens were discovered in rural China. The fossil was discovered before the live tree. Because of this unusual history, the Dawn Redwood is sometimes called a “live fossil”. Also know as Water Larch, this tree has become a very popular landscape tree growing in such diverse areas as Maine, Alabama, and California. It Latin name Metasequoia glyptostroboides looks like a real mouthful. It is pronounced “meta see qwoy ea glip toe stro boy dez”.
It is a member of the Taxodiaceae (Redwood) family, which includes the Baldcypress. The genus name comes from the Greek word meta (meaning together or near) and Sequoia because of botanical similarities with the Giant Sequoia and Redwood. It was introduced to the United States and Europe around 1948 and since then has become a real landscape star.
Dawn Redwood has a somewhat feathery pyramidal shape growing on a very straight trunk. The branches grow almost straight out from the trunk. Its reddish bark is finer and less rough than that of the Sequoia. As the tree gets more mature the bark becomes darker and exfoliates long narrow strips.
Like the Larch, the Dawn Redwood is a deciduous tree. Its soft leaves or needles are arranged opposite on the stem having a flattened look ½ inches long and about 1/16 inches wide. The upper surface of the leaves is bright green and the lower surface is a light green. They turn copper to brown color in the fall.
This tree is unisexual or monoecious, having both male and female flowers on the same tree. The male flowers are clusters at the end of branches, while the female flower is solitary. The cones that follow the flower are about 1 inch long containing about 5 to 9 winged seeds. Cones hang in groups at the ends of branches. As the cones grow heavier, they pull the branches down. The cones ripen in early December and shed the seeds shortly thereafter.