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Notes on the dawn redwood

by William (Ned) Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum
November 22, 2015

dawn redwood_DirectorsBlog17

Notes on the dawn redwood

dawn redwood_DirectorsBlog17The first dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) seeds ever to journey out of China arrived in Jamaica Plain in early 1948. Today, thirteen trees grown from these seeds (collected on an expedition sponsored by the Arnold Arboretum) are still going strong on the grounds. My personal favorite of the 1948 dawn redwoods (524-48*L) is off by itself at the south end of the conifer collection. Its form is perfect, and the deep copper coloration of its leaves in the fall is, to my eye, more striking than any other specimen in the living collections.

This week, 524-48*L (perhaps it needs a name?) hit its peak and the needles against a perfect blue sky were stunning. The maturing seed cones, resembling miniature paper lanterns, are now a golden hue. Better yet, 524-48*L holds its leaves and branchlets (dawn redwoods are deciduous conifers) a bit longer than most of its compatriots, prolonging the sense of autumn.  When you visit this specimen, take in its deeply fluted, sinuous trunk.

A wonderful new summary of archival materials on the discovery of the dawn redwood has just been published online by the archivists of the Arnold Arboretum and can be found here.  Finally, have a look at this image in the Arboretum’s Plant Image Database to see the last vestiges of green in the needles two weeks ago.

Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum

4 thoughts on “Notes on the dawn redwood

  1. Thank you! I especially enjoyed this post and the links you included because I live on the Japanese island of Yakushima, home of a certain dawn redwood planted as a gift from the Americans for heroic efforts during the Korean War. I always thought this was an unusual gift, and it’s interesting to learn about the status of this tree at the time it was gifted in the 1960s.

  2. Greetings Bev, unfortunately, we have no seed distribution records for Metasequoia glyptostroboides. This guide to our archive collection, however, may interest you. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance, and Happy Holidays to you – larissa 617-522-1086

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