Really the most exciting of the redwoods is the Dawn Redwood, a native of Manchuria China. Thought to be extinct, but rediscovered in the 1940's. Now the tree is planted widely, and greatly enjoyed by many!
Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), is a true Redwood, but different. This tree is a member of the redwood family, a Taxodiaceae (Taxodium) specifically. This is a living fossil, thought to be extinct, but rediscovered again in a valley in northern China. Like our redwoods, they are an isolated "relic" species from a long ago time when there were vast forests of them. A few trees were found near the village of Mo-tao-chi in the eastern Szechuan Province, and the main native groves were found in the Shui-hsa-pa Valley, in the northwest corner of Hupeh Province.
Seeds were introduced into the U.S. in 1948, and has been increasingly popular as an ornamental plant. It can be a timber tree, if grown for pulp. The paper-making properties are similar to the southern pines (where we get a large volume of our paper), but the fibers are stronger. The wood itself is weak and brittle, and burns very quickly producing little heat.
But as a different tree for the yard, the Dawn can be planted as a specimen or in lines. The needles are similar to the coast redwood, short linear pointed lighter green "sprays" arranged on the twigs. What is very different for a conifer is that the Dawn Redwood is deciduous. In the fall, the light green sprays turn yellow, then bronze, and fall off. Only the Larches do that!
The bark is that good red shreddy fiberous type as the redwood, but the height and size are smaller. Actually, no one really knows how big they get, because there had been so few of them, and only planted for 50 years. We've seen specimens that are over 70 feet tall and three feet in diameter, so it quite likely they can surpass the 100 foot mark in our lifetime.
Dawns are quite hardy, planted in Massachusetts with temperatures down to -30 degrees, and into California where the thermometer tops 100 degrees. They are rated as a Zone 4. They prefer full sun, but will tolerate at least half shade, and the grow rate is fairly quick, one to three feet a year if given plenty of water.
This is the part of species preservation we like to see. Here a very rare plant was brought into cultivation and now is spread nationwide for the enjoyment of everyone. This species is safe and sound, and is a very attractive tree.
The Dawn makes a great specimen, or in clumps, and also as a border or fence line tree. The Dawn Redwood is a redwood, but the foliage is more lacey looking than the other two redwoods, and in the fall, the Dawn Redwood will turn yellow like a maple, aspen, or birch tree, but the Dawn is a deciduous conifer tree!
Dawn Redwood - Very hardy, grows up to 100+ feet, plantable from Zones 3 to 10. They prefer full sun, can be very fast growing, and have red fiberous bark. These deciduous conifers drops its foliage in the fall like a hardwood! They are very similar in look to the Coastal Redwood, but much more cold-tolerant. Plant these as specimen trees. These are held in cold storage, so they will ship fine up through spring.
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