by John V Foster
Master Gardener, Washington County
Around 1925, plant explorers discovered a few living trees in China that had only been reported in the ancient fossil division. A unique deciduous needle-leaf tree to 100 feet tall, Dawn Redwood, was to remain lost to the Western World because of the disruption caused by the Japanese invasion of China.
Sometime after World War II, new plant seekers rediscovered Dawn Redwood in Szechwan Province and shipped seed to England and the USA. The first set of seeds failed to germinate, but a later set did germinate and grew nicely.
The one unfortunate thing about Dawn Redwood is its botanical name …. Metasequoia glyptostroboides… which is a mouthful.
Similar to the American Bald Cypress, but of a different botanical family, Dawn Redwood likes damp areas. Its Fall color is an orange-red rather than the rusty-red of the Bald Cypress.
Like most conifers, it grows straight for the sky until maturity, with a nice spread to 30 feet on an open site. It has small cones from which the seed drops to start a new cycle.
Why there were so few Dawn Redwood trees in its native habitat isn’t clearly understood, as it grows very well in USDA Zones 5b-8a, as long as it gets the moisture it needs. It even grows in cooler climates if it is protected from the wind and salt spray and given adequate moisture.
Dawn Redwood is a nice deciduous tree for the South side of your home as it provides decent shade in the Summer and allows the Winter Sun to warm your home. It tolerates a wide range of soil types and seems to not need much, if any, fertilizer. Altogether a fine landscapes tree .