The 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