Dawn Redwood, the dinosaur.

There are few plants that get me excited like the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). Like the famous and ancient fish, Coelacanth, it was presumed to be long extinct and known only from fossil record. In 1944, a group of Indiana Jones-esque (I can only assume) botanists stumbled upon a single grove of this spectacular giant tree in the Sichuan-Hubei region of central China.

Unlike many conifers, M glyptostroboides is deciduous and literally turns into a giant beacon of fiery color in the fall and winter.

Five years later a scant few seeds were sent to New Zealand, where a senior Forest Ranger took it upon himself to germinate and grow these seeds. On Arbor Day in 1951, they were planted out to grow into mature specimens. Three trees now exist in the Nelson’s Queens Garden. This trio is probably the oldest set of Dawn Redwoods in the western hemisphere, and very likely the largest as well.

small dawn redwood
This is what the largest of the three looked like in 1951.

I don’t know how tall they are exactly, because I left my tape measure at home. That, and they are much too tall for me to guess. Truly giant trees. If you want to know a little more about the biology/history of the tree, check out the Arkive, one of my favorite websites. I have seen the dawn redwood for sale several times in the last few years, so I know it isn’t unknown in the garden world. It’s popularity as a landscape tree is growing, I think due in part to it’s fast growth and neat architectural look. I wish I had room for a small group of these redwoods…

Incredible color.. it’s like being inside a fire! Without all the uncomfortable things that fire does.
This one is large enough to get it’s own lawn.
Bark texture, of course.

It doesn’t have big leaves, but I still like it. In fact, the leaves are really small. The whole tree itself is so tall that it doesn’t matter, though. Sometimes you really can’t see the forest for the trees.

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