Dawn redwood © Andrew McRobb/RBG Kew

Dawn redwood

Dawn redwood in Chinese script

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

The dawn redwood species is over 50 million years old. It was first recognised in 1941 from fossil records, but thought to be extinct. Later in the same year a Chinese forester made one of the greatest botanical discoveries of the twentieth century: the dawn redwood was alive and well and living in the forests of China.

Soon afterwards seeds from the tree were brought to the West. It is now a popular ornamental tree in gardens and city streets around the world.

Dawn redwoods grow extremely quickly, and fossil remains in China suggest they may live up to 450 years. They are especially beautiful in autumn with their feathery halo of red-bronze leaves.

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The tree’s distinctive cracked and knobbly reddish brown bark peels off in long narrow strips. © Tony Kirkham/RBG Kew

Image: The tree’s distinctive cracked and knobbly reddish brown bark peels off in long narrow strips.

Top left: Dawn redwood © Andrew McRobb/RBG Kew
Bottom: © Tony Kirkham/RBG Kew