Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood)

One of a rare breed of plant that the palaeontologists knew existed before the botanists. It’s extraordinary to think that there was fossil evidence of this tree’s existence from the Mesozoic and – because no one had found it – an assumption that it had been extinct since then. And then – in 1941 – it was discovered growing happily in Sichuan in Western China.

It was introduced into cultivation in 1949 and – not surprisingly – has proved entirely reliable, disease free, vigorous and robust. I say ‘not surprisingly’ because any species (be it plant or animal) that’s remained unchanged for many millions of years will have evolved many ways of dealing with both hell and high water.

The Dawn Redwood has become one of the most famous of these prehistoric species that came back to life along with the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) and the Coelacanth. I’ve linked the Wollemi to another part of our website but not the Coelacanth as we don’t sell them. Yet.

Like all of these tall conical conifers, their use needs some thought. If you want a collection of Latin names in your garden (an arboretum?) than plant one on its own but from a design point of view this (in my modest opinion) accomplishes nothing. Groves. They love each other’s company and they look so bold and wonderful when grown together – so try a grove or two.

Having said that, I have one in my garden. I planted it in 1985 because I wanted to see what it would do. It grew like a rocket so now – in 2020 – it must be 60ft tall. It’s a fine specimen in rude health but being on its own it looks lonely and I feel bad. As they’ve only been in cultivation in Britain for 70 years, who knows when it’ll stop?

It’s like a bigger, more slender version of the related Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum) being deciduous with similar delicate foliage. It’s not known to grow in standing water and doesn’t seem to produce the famous ‘knees’ found on the Swamp Cypress but in stature it’s more like the mighty Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)

A translation : Meta sequoia means a bit like a Sequoia and glyptostrob-oides means a bit like (the -oides ending always means ‘like’) a Glypostrobus, the Chinese Swamp Cypress. Clear as mud?

Grown from seed.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

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Hardiness level Green

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Hardy anywhere in Britain below approximately 1000ft (300m)

This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.

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