Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Dawn redwood. Known as a living fossil, this fast-growing deciduous conifer has an unusual story of discovery. In 1941 Japanese paleobotanist Shigeru Miki found something exciting during his studies of the fossil specimens of Sequoia. He noted several differences among the specimens that were sufficiently distinct to represent a new, previously unnamed fossil genus. Believing it to be extinct, he named the genus Metasequoia. (Meta comes from the Greek and means with or after.) During that same year an unusual conifer was discovered in the remote village of Modaoqi, China and was later found to be identical to the newly named fossil genus. The tree was named Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Some of the oldest dawn redwoods now growing in the United States grew from seed that originated in Modaoqi, where three Metasequoias stood, one of them one hundred feet tall and over six feet in diameter. Local villagers believed the tree to be the home of God. In 1948, this tree, still healthy and holding seed-filled cones, was estimated to be 450 years old. In 1980 the largest trees were placed under protection by the Chinese government, but long-term survival remains uncertain due to habitat encroachment. Strongly reminiscent of California’s coast redwood when leafed-out, the dawn redwood has smaller cones and bright, apple green leaves that are soft and flexible to the touch. The leaves are arranged oppositely, in pairs on short branchlets, and turn a rich, coppery-bronze in autumn, then fall usually after the first hard rain of the season to expose the outstretched naked limbs and russet-colored trunk. Trees suffer from winter wind damage in cold, dry areas, and require protection from salt winds that cause foliage burn and from hot, reflected light in enclosed areas. A stunning specimen tree in containers, it can also be planted beside, or in, shallow standing water. Tolerant of lawn watering and resistant to oak root fungus. My daughter found the fleshy branch-tips made a delectable meal for her pet bunny. Hardy to 15F. Western China.

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