Dawn redwood

Métaséquoia de Chine

Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu & ChengCupressaceae (cypress family)

Origin: China


Dawn redwood is a very large deciduous conifer with bright green feathery foliage.

Read more about Tree, Bark, Twigs


Leaves are flattened, soft needles, borne on green shoots.

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Pollen cones

Pollen cones are tiny, green and inconspicuous, borne in long, dense clusters.

Read more about Pollen cones

Seed cones

Single, small, oval or rounded seed cones dangle on long stalks.

Read more about Seed cones


Dawn redwood is a very large deciduous conifer with a straight trunk and conical crown.

Growing up to 35 m (115') or more high and 200 cm (6.5') in diameter, dawn redwood develops a broad rounded or flat-topped crown with age.

There is a distinctive, longitudinal groove in the trunk below the junction of each lower branch.

Bark on older trees is reddish brown with thin strips peeling off. Bark on young trees is lighter.

Twigs are reddish-brown, ridged, with opposite buds.

Buds are small, 3 - 4 mm (1/10") long, egg-shaped, with no sticky resin.

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Leaves are soft flattened needles, 2 - 3 cm (3/4" - 1") long, borne on green shoots each holding about 25 - 30 needles in a flat plane.

Shoots are arranged opposite each other on the twig.

In the fall, both the needles and the shoots turn brown then fall to the ground.

As a deciduous conifer, in the winter, dawn redwood branches are bare.

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Pollen cones

Pollen cones are borne in long, dense clusters before the deciduous needles emerge.

The individual pollen cones are tiny, green and inconspicuous.

Pollen cones turn brown and fall off once the pollen is shed. (The larger, round cones in this image are seed cones from the previous year.)

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Seed cones

Seed cones are oval to round, 2 - 2.5 cm (3/4" - 1") long. Green when young, they hang singly on stalks 1 - 7 cm (1/3" - 2 3/4") long.

Mature seed cones are woody and the scales separtate to release the seed. They may remain on the tree for a year after seed is shed.

Seeds are about 5 mm (1/5") long, encircled by two wings.

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The genus Metasequoia was originally described in 1941 from fossil material; at the time it was thought that all the species in the genus were extinct. However, shortly after, a small population of living trees was discovered by scientists in a remote region of China and by 1948, dawn redwood seeds had been distributed to botanical gardens throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. Today, dawn redwood is widely cultivated.

Dawn redwood is the last known living species of Metasequoia, and is therefore called a living fossil. It is critically endangered in the wild due to deforestation and development in its natural range. Today, very large specimens, thought to be at least 400 years old, are protected, but natural regeneration in the wild is poor.

Derivation of names

The genus name, Metasequoia, is from the Greek work meta, meaning together or near, and sequoia, the name of a closely related North American conifer. The species name, glyptostroboides, means resembling Glyptostrobus, a related genus of conifers.

Deciduous conifer

Dawn redwood is one of the few conifers that are deciduous, dropping their needles every year. Its opposite branching pattern is also unique among the conifers.

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Dawn redwood IN TORONTO

Dawn redwood's place in Toronto's urban forest

Dawn redwood can be seen as a specimen tree in parks and cemeteries throughout the city. It is increasingly available in nurseries and more young trees are now being planted. Its form is very neat and its feathery foliage provides an interesting and attractive component of the urban forest.

Landscape value and potential for home planting

Dawn redwood is a fast-growing tree that can reach about 15 m (50') after only 15 to 20 years. It can grow to a very large size, so it is not suitable for small spaces.

Despite the fact that winter temperatures in its native habitat usually hover around 0 degrees C, dawn redwood has proved to be amenable to cold North American winters. It prefers moist, deep soils that are slightly acidic, and grows best in sunny sites.

Pests and diseases: Dawn redwood is not known to be particularly susceptible to any disease or pest, although some specimens in North America have died as a result of canker infestations. Japanese beetles may feed on the foliage.

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WHERE CAN I SEE Dawn redwood?

Find trees on Tree Tour maps at Canadian Tree Tours:

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