Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood)
An ancient tree dating back over 65 million years that once covered much of North America, the Dawn Redwood was thought to be long extinct. Its rediscovery in a remote mountainous region of China in the early 1940s rocked the botanical world. In 1946, the Arnold Arboretum obtained seeds from China and distributed them throughout the country. The oldest Metasequoia in the country were all propagated from these seeds. With the reopening of China to botanists in the late 1970s, new seed sources were available to bring in fresh genetic material.
The literature concerning Metasequoia glyptostroboides is vast and well worth exploring. The story of the discovery of a handful of remnant trees in Hubei Province and subsequent explorations is one of the most fascinating tales in modern botany. A quick overview on Wikipedia can get you started and the compilation of historic and contemporary articles published as "Metasequoia After Fifty Years" by the Arnold Arboretum's Arnoldia in 1998-1999 will give you the best history available. Check out the Metasequoia.org web site for the latest info including annual conference information. And don't miss Doug Hank's wonderfully obsessive site about his planting project in North Carolina. See more resources at the bottom of the page.
Dawn Redwood is a massive tree, but it has a soft delicate texture. Before dropping its leaves, it can have incredible fall color, especially when lit up on a sunny day. It's exciting to have one planted in Maxwell and I hope it does well. They are fast-growing, so even though our specimen is small, we might live to see it reach impressive height.
Metasequoia glyptostroboides Bibliography and Other Resources--coming soon
The Basics:Height: 70-100'
Habit: conical, pyramidal
Flower: monoecious; male flowers are racemes or panicles up to a foot long, female flowers are solitary
Fruit: pendulous cones, globose or cylindrical, 3/4 to 1 1/4", 14-28 scales, mature in 5-7 months
Buds: 1/4" ovoid or ellipsoid, bud scales light reddish or yellowish brown, opposite
Leaves: opposite, deciduous, flattened, straight or slightly curved, 1/2", upper bright green,
lower slightly lighter in color, raised midrib
Fall Color: reddish brown, orange brown
Bark: reddish brown when young>darker, fissured, and exfoliating with age
Culture: moist, deep, well-drained soil; full sun; little to no pruning; appears to tolerate very wet sites
Disease and Insects: not serious
Native Range: eastern Szechuan and western Hupeh China
Introduced to west: 1947-1948
*Information from Michael A. Dirr, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing, 1998