70816If it has bark like a coastal redwood, and foliage like a coastal redwood, and a slender conical structure like a coastal redwood, it is most likely a coastal redwood. If it turns orangish brown in autumn and defoliates through winter, it is the much less common dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides. It is one of only a few distinctive genera of coniferous trees that are deciduous.

Upon closer inspection, it is not as similar to coastal redwood as it initially appears. Besides being deciduous, the foliage of dawn redwood is softer and lighter grassy green. Individual leaves are more perpendicular to the stems. Trunks are more tapered, so that they are quite lean up high, and quite plump down low. Old trees can form buttressed trunks. Strips of bark might exfoliate.

Dawn redwood is by no means a deciduous alternative to the evergreen coastal redwood. Although it grows about as fast while young, it slows with maturity. Crowded trees get taller but lanky. Exposed trees stay shorter and broader, but because they are still relatively narrowly conical, they do not make much shade at first. Old trees are more than a hundred feet tall, but could get taller.

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2 thoughts on “Dawn Redwood

  1. I planted one of these at my previous “estate”, and it quickly became my favorite tree. In the Piedmont area of North Carolina it is a rapid grower with beautiful distinctive bark and leaves. It was originally thought to be extinct, but it was rediscovered in China in 1944 and is often called a “living fossil”.

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    1. They were a fad here for a while, mostly among landscape designers with something to prove. Consequently, I dislike them. However, we have one in the arboretum. It was a gift, so is VERY important.

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