Mighty Metasequoia

Dawn Redwood's stunning bark and architecture in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Dawn Redwood’s stunning bark and curious branching habit (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For a tree with majesty and presence, I can think of nothing grander than the Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides.  This king among trees is worth considering if you have a moist area and the room to accommodate a large tree.  And I mean large.  Under the right conditions, Metasequoia is a fast growing tree; growing several feet annually and capable of reaching over 100’ tall by 20’ wide in zones 5-8.  Considered a living fossil, Dawn Redwood was once one of the most widespread tree species in the Northern hemisphere (during the Tertiary period). Rediscovered in China in the early 1940’s, Metasequoia glyptostroboides is one of three species of sequoia, the others being giant sequoia, Sequoidendron giganteum and the coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, which are well known natives of California.  

Dawn Redwood's feathery foliage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Dawn Redwood’s feathery foliage (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Among deciduous trees, Dawn Redwood offers many desirable attributes; from its unique red trunk and peeling bark, to the broad, upright form, unusual branching habit, and the soft deciduous needles that turn gold in the fall before dropping.  As a Metasequoia matures, its roots erupt from the ground like prehistoric serpents swimming around the base, while the limbs reach out somewhat horizontally as if taking a big stretch.  For this reason, you will want to allow lots of open space to avoid any crowding by other plants or shrubs.  Because of its water loving nature, Dawn Redwood adores lounging along the shoreline of a pond or stream, and will be thrilled if you can offer it those conditions.  However, it will be almost as content in an average (not bone dry) lawn setting.

**Looking for more winter interest, read Barking Up the Right Tree **

Mourning doves line Metasequoia's branches in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Mourning doves line Metasequoia’s branches (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For the several dormant months in New England, Metasequoia glyptostroboides provides spectacular winter interest with its massive form and the brilliant hues of its incredible trunk.  Like blazing confetti twisted together, shades of blond to rust are woven throughout its thick torso, while the open limbs offer a sturdy hangout for dozens of overwintering birds and other climbing critters.  Feather soft needles emerge with spring, and hold until autumn’s harshest cold, when they turn a golden bisque before gently blanketing the ground. Because the Dawn Redwood grows quickly, it may be hard to find a good specimen as they are easily crowded in a nursery and can have sporadic or one-sided branching.  It took me three years to find one with a balanced conical form, but has proven well worth the patience as it matures into a spectacular specimen.

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