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Dawn Redwood

Page history last edited by Dave Raftery 14 years, 1 month ago

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My Dawn Redwoods


Redwood world

Forest Farm Nursery

DR correspondence

Cold Stream Farm

Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve

Metasequoia Organization



The Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), thought to be extinct for millions of years, is alive and well. This living fossil is a coniferous tree, but unlike most other conifers, it is deciduous and sheds its needles in the fall. The dawn redwood is an extraordinary tree with a history and a beauty all its own. And now dawn redwoods are available from many nurseries and garden centers for all to enjoy.


The dawn redwood grows to a height of about 100 feet (it's not for small yards) and has a tapering trunk with fissured and shredded bark. It is slender and pyramidal in outline when young, becoming broader with age. The branches droop delicately like the hands of a ballet dancer, with soft feathery foliage suggestive of the bald cypress but longer and more delicate, as if it had been painted on the branch by a Chinese artist.


These leaves are flat and linear and about 1/2 inch long on older trees, but up to two or three times as long on young specimens. They are arranged on both sides of short shoots like the teeth of a comb. They're soft and delicate in texture and light green in color. The leaves shed in the fall, together with the short shoots to which they are attached, turning a warm russet-red color before they drop. The inconspicuous, seed-bearing cones are formed at the ends of the lateral branchlets.


The dawn redwood is a fast-growing tree. When young it can grow from 3 to 5 feet in height in a single season. It is excellent as a single specimen or for grouping. Specimens trained as standards by removing their lower branches while they are young make good clean-stemmed street trees. Because the dawn redwood is deciduous it is more likely to withstand city conditions than evergreen conifers. Plant a dawn redwood on the south or west side of your home to shade it in the summer and allow the sun to warm it in the winter.


The dawn redwood is pest- and disease-free and thrives in any reasonably good soil, but it grows best in full sun in moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Although hardy to Zone 5, it can be injured by early fall freezes so, if possible, choose high or hillside sites rather than low spots when planting. Dawn redwoods transplant easily and are responsive to pruning and shearing.


Today dawn redwoods are available from most nurseries and are becoming quite popular. These large, majestic trees, with their interesting history and graceful form, are easy to care for and add beauty and interest to any yard. Plant a living fossil, then sit back and enjoy its beauty and shade. You'll have a bit of history in your own front yard. (From http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1082/is_n5_v39/ai_17618763)


Dawn redwood is a deciduous conifer (that's unusual!) that can get up to 150 ft (45.7 m) tall with a trunk diameter exceeding 8 ft (20.3 m). The overall shape is pyramidal with a single straight bole. The trunk becomes strongly fluted and buttressed at the base and the bark is reddish brown and fibrous, shredding and peeling in long, thin strips. The needle-like leaves are flattened and linear, about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long and arranged in two opposite ranks. The needles are deciduous and even the smaller branchlets drop off in winter. In autumn, the foliage takes on a rich orange-brown or coppery color. Dawn redwood is closely related to and looks a lot like the baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) of the southeastern U.S. The most conspicuous difference is that dawn redwood has rounded depressions that look like armpits beneath where the branches attach to the trunk.


dawn redwood trunk

The dawn redwood's massive fluted trunk is especially attractive in winter after the deciduous needle-like leaves drop.

Dawn redwood has been in cultivation in the west only since 1948 and only a few cultivars have been selected. 'Emerald Feathers' has dense and feathery bright green foliage. 'National' has a very narrow habit and is hardy only to zone 6. It is a clone taken from a seedling growing at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., that was 58 ft (17.7 m) tall, 24 ft (7.3 m) wide, and 23 years old.



Dawn redwood grows naturally only in Sichuan and Hubei provinces in west-central China. Its persistence there is a relic of a former worldwide distribution. The tree grows along rivers and around rice paddies where it is planted for soil stabilization.



Dawn redwood is a very fast-growing tree that can reach 50 ft (15.2 m) in height in just 15 or 20 years.

Light: Full sun.

Moisture: Dawn redwood does well in normal, well-drained upland soils and also in wet, soggy soils. Once established, they can even survive in standing water. They do best where their roots can reach water. Trees in upland sites need watering during prolonged droughts.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Dawn redwood is sometimes damaged by early freezes, so it is best not to plant in a depression that collects cold air.

Propagation: Dawn redwood is easy to propagate from seed or cuttings. Young specimens are easy to transplant.



Dawn redwood is a fine, stately specimen for large landscapes such as parks or golf courses. They make excellent avenue trees. Fast growing, with a dense, feathery texture, a stand of dawn redwoods creates an effective summertime visual screen and windbreak in just a few years. Fall color is excellent and even the winter silhouette is very attractive with its massive, fluted trunk and strong horizontal branches. Dawn redwoods are at their best along watercourses or ponds and can even tolerate standing water. (From http://www.floridata.com/ref/M/meta_gly.cfm )


Grow your own redwood


"...I have had certain metasequoias on the Preserve go from four to twenty feet in only three growing seasons! Optimal growth seems to be at a rate of up to seven feet per year..."

"..the almost prehistoric quality of the boles if left branched to the ground.."  "...This can also reference the unique shape of Metasequoia’s boles, which when left branched to the ground, develop into highly contorted shapes..."

I think you will need to cold-stratify your tree seeds.  Most deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter) have seeds that require a cold period in order to break their dormancy.  Until dormancy is broken, the seeds will not germinate.  You can break dormancy naturally, by planting a seed in a pot and leaving it outdoors during the winter, making sure it is regularly watered.  You can do it articially by planting seeds in a pot and sealing it in a plastic baggie and placing it in a refrigerator (not freezer) for about 90 days.  This should break the dormancy and once the pot of seeds has been removed from the cold environment and placed in a warm environment (70-75F) the seeds should begin to germinate within a couple of weeks.  Allow the seedlings to produce a few sets of true leaves before gently pricking them out and planting them in separate pots. 

Propogating cuttings


The dawn redwood can be propagated from the current seasons growth, 6-8 inches long,

from the top of a younger tree, not the base of the tree, not from a very old tree.

Planting media 50% sand 50% peat (sterile)

July-August Use Rhizopon AA #3 dry the dry dip method


or for cuttings taken in the mid winter (Feb- March) basal dip the cuttings in a solution of either Rhizopon AA Water Soluble Tablets at one tablet per liter water, or Hortus IBA Water Soluble Salts @250 mg per liter water.

Soak the ends for 6-8 hours then plant.



For ideas see the rose page at


For information on taking cuttings


The new roots will form when the soil temperature is above 65F in about

For mail order sources of Rhizopon and Hortus salts see


Following from Jeff Howe:


I’ve done a lot of experimentation with taking cuttings and am beginning to settle on the following:  I leave my trees with their previous year’s growth over the winter and then around early March, I trim them to taste.  I put all of the cuttings into water and let them soak a day or two.  I select the best  terminal cuttings, dip them in liquid rooting hormone (IBA) if I have it or powdered Root Tone F if I don’t, and plant them in mass in a large wooden box in a moist, organic soil.  The box is nice because I can move it from sun to shade and out of the cold.  I just let them go.  You rogue out the ones that are obviously dead and about mid-June plant the survivors in small rooting containers.  I grow them on for one season and then pot them up to a small growth pot the next spring.


As of early June, I have planter boxes with hundreds of cuttings that have thrown out strong, healthy (and frankly,beautiful) roots.  I will let them grow as is through the end of June, and then it will be time to carefully remove the well-rooted cuttings from the soil and plant them individually in rooting flats.  The goal is to separate them and allow them to extend their roots without competition for the remainder of the growing season so that they enter the first winter with a well-developed and well-insulated root mass. 


In mid-summer of next year I will pot them up to 4” pots where they will live for another couple of years.  The goal here is to let the tree form a thick and healthy root ball which can then be trimmed and flattened as necessary.


Branch tips are removed in mid-winter to mid-spring, treated with rooting hormone and planted and maintained under consistently moist conditions.  Buds open in the spring and leaves emerge.  If roots sprout sufficiently to maintain the cutting, a new tree is the result.  Pros: simple process, resulting trees already with hardwood trunk, resulting trees very healthy. Cons: variable yield.


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