Northwest Conifers


Dawn Redwood – Metasequoia glyptostroboides


Metasequoia at Hoyt Arboretum

The dawn redwood is a popular ornamental, especially distinctive in the fall when the deciduous needles turn golden-brown. After this display, the branchlets with attached needles fall to the ground.

Where it grows: Millions of years ago, Metasequoia trees thrived throughout much of the northern hemisphere, including the Pacific Northwest. Fossils of the tree are common in central Oregon, near Fossil, Mitchell, and the Painted Hills. In 1941, similar fossils found in Japan were classified as Metasequoia. Of course, the Metasequoia was thought to be extinct. However, in 1943, living specimens were found in central China. In 1946 these specimens were identified as the same genus as the Metasequoia fossils and classified as Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Seeds from China arrived in the US in 1948 and were distributed throughout the country. Now the Dawn Redwood is a popular tree in cities and parks all across the country. 

Given its fossil history and the rediscovery of living trees, the dawn redwood has been described as a "living fossil." Oregon designated the Metasequoia as the state fossil in 2005.

Names:  The dawn redwood is commonly called Metasequoia, which identifies the tree, since it is the only living species in its genus. Meta means "like," indicating that the tree is like the Sequoia. The dawn redwood was at first identified as a Chinese swamp cypress (Glyptostrobus pensilis). The species name, glyptostroboides, alludes to this early classification.





Fall foliage



© 2012 Ken Denniston