Dawn Redwood

Dawn Redwood

Common name Dawn Redwood
Botanical name Metasequoia glyptostroboides
Family Taxodiaceae
Natural range China
Mature height to 40m
Form Classic conical shape
Likes Moist ground and riverbanks
Dislikes Warm weather
Where to plant Not in Oz. Alaska maybe?
Known for Deciduous conifer

Unveiling the Enigma: The Dawn Redwood
A Conifer Unlike Others: Meet the Deciduous Dawn Redwood

A captivating blend of the unexpected, the Dawn Redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides, if you fancy botanical names, stands tall as one of the rarest conifer species. But here’s the twist – this conifer isn’t evergreen. Instead, it’s deciduous, shedding all its foliage come autumn, just like an apple tree! Before the annual shed, the tree transforms into a vibrant canvas of yellow-orange, sometimes even adorned with a touch of pink. Conifers are known for their green, but our Dawn Redwood loves to be unique!

From Fossils to Forests: An Ancient Legacy

The Dawn Redwood’s story intertwines with that of the ages, mirroring the tale of our own Wollemi Pines found secreted away in a remote Australian canyon. This tree is a “living fossil,” an ancient script written in wood and leaves. However, deforestation is stealthily inching this magnificent species towards the brink of extinction. To preserve its legacy, it has been planted profusely in parks and arboretums worldwide – a testament to our efforts to protect this living piece of history.

Resurrected from Extinction: A Historical Perspective

In the vast chronicle of Earth’s history, the Dawn Redwood was once a prominent figure, ruling expanses of the Northern Hemisphere. From North America to Asia and Greenland, its fossils lay embedded in the earth, testament to its ancient rule. This evidence led scientists to believe that the Dawn Redwood had vanished from the face of the Earth millions of years ago.

Then, in 1944, a Chinese forester discovered a towering specimen of this presumed extinct species in Sichuan province, China. Four years later, a team of ardent tree enthusiasts ventured to south-central China and discovered a few thousand Dawn Redwoods. Villagers had been using these seemingly ubiquitous trees for cattle fodder and construction materials. Thus, the Dawn Redwood, believed extinct for 20 million years, had made a miraculous comeback, reclaiming its rightful place amongst the world’s living trees.

An Uncertain Future: Conserving the Dawn Redwood

Even though the Dawn Redwood has returned from oblivion, its continued existence, particularly in the wild, remains under a cloud. A survey conducted in the early 2000s took a census of all the wild Dawn Redwoods in China. The count showed mature trees ranging from 25cm to a whopping 1.65m in diameter and reaching heights of 12-51m. The average estimated age stood around a venerable 95 years.

However, the survey yielded a worrying fact: there were no seedlings. Current Chinese laws even allow the removal and transplantation of any found. While the species may continue to thrive in parks across the globe, the authentic Dawn Redwood forest ecosystem is on the precipice of being lost forever when the existing mature trees die off. Therefore, the future of this miraculous “living fossil” hangs in balance, necessitating our continued efforts to conserve and protect this precious heritage of our natural world.

Recommended Reads:
  1. U.S Forest Service’s take on Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
  2. The Story of the Dawn Redwood by the American Conifer Society
  3. Missouri Botanical Garden’s page on Dawn Redwood
  4. The Dawn Redwood, a ‘Living Fossil’ Tree by Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  5. Earth.com’s article on Dawn Redwood: a Tree that time almost forgot
Interesting Facts about the Dawn Redwood:
  1. The Dawn Redwood is one of the few coniferous trees that lose their leaves in autumn, turning from green to shades of yellow-orange or even pink.
  2. This species was once considered extinct, known only through fossil records, until it was rediscovered in China in 1944.
  3. Dawn Redwoods can reach up to 40 metres in height, with a classic conical shape, making them a spectacular sight.
  4. The natural habitat of these trees is China, specifically moist ground and riverbanks. They’re not a fan of warm weather, and outside of China, Alaska might be an ideal spot.
  5. Although the Dawn Redwood is an ancient species, the average age of the remaining wild trees in China is around 95 years.
  6. Sadly, no seedlings have been found in the wild, signaling a potential end to the wild population once the current mature trees die off.
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