Metasequoia (dawn redwood) is a fast-growing, deciduous tree, and the
sole living species,
Metasequoia glyptostroboides, is one of three
species of conifers known as redwoods. It is native to Lichuan county
Hubei province, China. Although the least tall of the redwoods, it
grows to at least 165 feet (50 meters) in height. Local villagers
refer to the original tree from which most others derive as Shui-sa,
or "water fir", which is part of a local shrine. Since its rediscovery
in 1944, the dawn redwood has become a popular ornamental.
Sequoia sempervirens (coast redwood) and Sequoiadendron
giganteum (giant sequoia) of California, and
classified in the
Cupressaceae subfamily Sequoioideae. Although
M. glyptostroboides is the only living species in its genus,
three fossil species are known, as well.
Sequoioideae and several
other genera have been transferred from the former
Cupressaceae based on DNA analysis.
Metasequoia in gardens, parks and streets
6 Further reading
7 External links
Metasequoia redwood fossils are known from many areas in the Northern
Hemisphere; more than 20 fossil species have been named (some were
even identified as the genus Sequoia), but are considered as just
three species, M. foxii, M. milleri, and
M. occidentalis. During the
Paleocene and Eocene, extensive
Metasequoia occurred as far north as
Strathcona Fiord on
Ellesmere Island and sites on
Axel Heiberg Island
Axel Heiberg Island (northern Canada) at
around 80° N latitude.
Metasequoia was likely deciduous by
this time. Given that the high latitudes in this period were warm and
tropical, it is hypothesized that the deciduous habit evolved in
response to the unusual light availability patterns, not to major
seasonal variations in temperature. During three months in the
summer, the sun would shine continuously, while three months of the
winter would be complete darkness. It is also hypothesized that the
change from evergreen to deciduous habit occurred before colonizing
the high latitudes and was the reason
Metasequoia was dominant in the
Large petrified trunks and stumps of the extinct Metasequoia
occidentalis (sometimes identified as Sequoia occidentalis) also make
up the major portion of Tertiary fossil plant material in the badlands
of western North Dakota.
The trees are well known from late
Miocene strata, but
no fossils are known after that. Before its discovery, the taxon was
believed to have become extinct during the Miocene; when it was
discovered extant, it was heralded as a "living fossil".
Dawn redwood foliage - note opposite arrangement
While the bark and foliage are similar to another closely related
redwood genus Sequoia,
Metasequoia differs from the
in that it is deciduous like
Taxodium distichum (bald cypress), and
like that species, older specimens form wide buttresses on the lower
trunk. It is a fast-growing tree to 130–150 feet (40–45 m) tall
and 6 feet (2 m) in trunk diameter in cultivation so far (with the
potential to grow to even greater heights).
The leaves are opposite, 0.4-1.25 inches (1–3 cm) long, and
bright fresh green, turning a foxy red-brown in fall. The pollen cones
are 0.25 inch (6 mm) long, produced on long spikes in early
spring; they are only produced on trees growing in regions with hot
summers. The cones are globose to ovoid, 0.6-1.0 inches
(1.5-2.5 cm) in diameter with 16–28 scales, arranged in
opposite pairs in four rows, each pair at right angles to the adjacent
pair; they mature in about 8–9 months after pollination.
Metasequoia has experienced morphological stasis for the past 65
million years, meaning the modern
Metasequoia glyptostroboides appears
identical to its late
Eocene (Ypresian) age M. occidentalis branchlet
Metasequoia was first described as a fossil from the
Mesozoic Era by
Shigeru Miki in 1941, but in 1944, a small stand of an unidentified
tree species was discovered in
China in Modaoxi (磨刀溪; presently,
Moudao (谋道), in Lichuan County, Hubei) by Zhan Wang. Due to
World War II, these were not studied further until 1946, and only
finally described as a new living species of
Metasequoia in 1948 by
Wan Chun Cheng and Hu Hsen Hsu. In 1948, the
Arnold Arboretum of
Harvard University sent an expedition to collect seeds and, soon
after, seedling trees were distributed to various universities and
arboreta worldwide for growth trials.
Presently, a number of natural
Metasequoia populations exist in the
hills and wetlands of Hubei's Lichuan County. Most of them are small,
with fewer than 30 trees each; however, the largest of them, in Xiaohe
Valley, is estimated to consist of around 5,400 trees. A few trees
are also said to exist in neighboring
Metasequoia in gardens, parks and streets
Dawn redwoods are fast-growing trees. They will grow too large for
small gardens, but can be good in a wide range of larger gardens and
parks. Although they live in wet sites in their native habitat they
will also tolerate dry soils. Unlike most conifers, their deciduous
habit means they do not cast too much shade in winter, and they can
even be seen growing as street trees in London.
Strawberry Fields is a landscaped section in New York City's Central
Park dedicated to Beatle John Lennon. It's named after the Beatles'
song "Strawberry Fields Forever". At the farthest northern tip of the
lawns there have been planted three dawn redwood trees. The trees lose
their needles but regain them again every spring, a symbol of the
eternal renewal of John Lennon. The trees are expected to reach a
height of 36 metres (118 ft) within 100 years. This will make
them visible from great distances in the park.
^ Paul A. Gadek; Deryn L. Alpers; Margaret M. Heslewood; Christopher
J. Quinn (2000). "Relationships within
Cupressaceae sensu lato: a
combined morphological and molecular approach". American Journal of
Botany. 87 (7): 1044–1057. doi:10.2307/2657004. JSTOR 2657004.
^ A. Farjon (2005). Monograph of
Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-068-4.
^ Christopher J. Williams; Arthur H. Johnson; Ben A. LePage; David R.
Vann; Tatsuo Sweda (2003). "Reconstruction of Tertiary Metasequoia
forests. II. Structure, biomass, and productivity of
forests in the Canadian Arctic" (PDF). Paleobiology. 29 (2):
^ Ralph W. Chaney (1948). "The bearing of the living
problems of Tertiary paleobotany". Botany. 34 (11): 503–515.
doi:10.1073/pnas.34.11.503. JSTOR 88221. PMC 1079159 .
^ Richard Jagels & Maria A. Equiza (2005). Competitive advantages
Metasequoia in warm high latitudes. pp. 335–349. In
LePage et al (2005).
^ Ben A. LePage, Hong Yang & Midori Matsumoto (2005). The
evolution and biogeographic history of Metasequoia.
pp. 3–115. In LePage et al (2005).
^ a b c Gaytha A. Langlois (2005). A conservation plan for Metasequoia
in China. pp. 367–418. ISBN 9781402026317. In LePage
et al (2005).
^ B.G. Hibberd, ed. (1989). Urban Forestry Practice, Forestry
Commission Handbook 5. p. 61. In Hibberd (1989).
Zican He; Jianqiang Li; Qing Cai; Xiaodong Li; Hongwen Huang (2004).
"Cytogenetic studies on
Metasequoia glyptostroboides, a living fossil
species". Genetica. 122 (3): 269–276. doi:10.1007/s10709-004-0926-x.
Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on
Associated Plants, August 6–10, 2006, Metasequoia: Back from the
Brink? An Update. Edited by Hong Yang and Leo J. Hickey. Bulletin of
the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Volume 48, Issue 2 31 October
2007, pp. 179–426. 
The Reports of the Third International
Metasequoia Symposium, August 3
to 8, 2010, Osaka, Japan 
A. Hope Jahren & Leonel Silveira Lobo Sternberg (2003). "Humidity
estimate for the middle
Eocene Arctic rain forest" (PDF). Geology. 31
from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27.
Christopher J. Williams; Ben A. LePage; David R. Vann; Takeshi Tange;
Hiroyuki Ikeda; Makoto Ando; Tomoko Kusakabe; Hayato Tsuzuki; Tatsuo
Sweda (2003). "Structure, allometry, and biomass of plantation
Metasequoia glyptostroboides in Japan" (PDF). Forest Ecology and
Management. 180 (1–3): 287–301. doi:10.1016/S0378-1127(02)00567-4.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-11.
Ben A. LePage; Christopher James Williams; Hong Yang, eds. (2005). The
Geobiology and Ecology of Metasequoia. Topics in geobiology. 22.
Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer. ISBN 1-4020-2631-5.
B.G. Hibberd, ed. (1989). Urban Forestry Practice, Forestry Commission
Handbook 5 (PDF). London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Metasequoia.
Wikispecies has information related to Metasequoia
The metasequoia organisation
Giant redwoods in the U.K.
Metasequoia glyptostroboides". Integrated Taxonomic Information
D.A. Hänks. "Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve".