Dawn Redwood is a deciduous conifer with fresh green foliage and small, scaly cones (present only in hot-summer climates). In autumn, the needles turn a deep brownish shade of red before dropping -- a splendid sight! This tree grows quickly, often creating buttress roots (raised roots above the soil on all sides of the trunk, helping to support it and to access surface nutrients) that add to its stunning ornamental appeal. After just 10 years it may be 10 to 15 feet tall; after 30 it could be as much as 50 feet high, and ultimately it will reach 100 or more feet high, with a trunk several feet in diameter at the base.
This pyramidal tree is a glorious landmark in any large-scale setting. It loves moist to wet soils, so it's a natural choice for a waterside planting, and poor soil drainage is a godsend to its thirsty roots. As you might expect, it is not drought-tolerant at all, particularly when young, so take care to select a spot that acquires constant moisture with or without your intervention!
Easy to care for, Dawn Redwood has been found to be very tolerant of urban pollution. It seems to thrive best in almost rainforest conditions, which the high humidity in much of the U.S. is happy to provide! This part of the world was once its home, and you will find it quite adaptable to nearly any condition except dry soil.
Metasequoia glyptostroboides is nearly extinct in the wild, and is on the critically endangered list. (Relentless cone collection from the wild population in China has largely prevented the natural reproduction of the original 1943 trees.) In 1995 a grove named the Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve was planted in the Appalachian region of North Carolina, and it is hoped that one day this 50-acre stand of trees will become established enough to become a public park (2035 is the target date for opening the preserve to the public). Presently the only place to view a large number of Dawn Redwoods in the wild is China.
This is a very special tree, historically as well as botanically. Consider giving it a home in your landscape and preserving one of the Earth's most ancient of known species! Zones 4-8.