Monday, May 19, 2008

Dawn Redwood at the Millennium Stick Farm.

When the City of Richmond created a small arboretum in 2000, it was not very impressive. Tiny trees, widely spaced, signs with daunting Latin names -- a stick farm that will give you museum-head (that clogged feeling you get from reading signage in museums). But, as they were supposed to, the trees grew, and continue to grow and the arboretum is becoming a popular stroll in this growing city.

The tree collection has a “Pacific Rim” theme, thus includes trees from the Pacific regions of the Americas, plus eastern Asia. I was pleased to find that one of my favourite species, the Dawn Redwood from China, is represented by three specimens, all of which are doing well.

The Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, is native to mountainous terrain in Central China. It was not known to science until the late 1940s, although a fossil of the same genus had been described in Japan in 1941. Until the 1990s, most Dawn Redwoods in North America were derived from trees grown from seeds brought from China to the US in 1949.
Yellow push-pin marks first known locality of Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

Dawn Redwood, early leaves (this week).

The reasons it is favourite tree for me are that one, it has soft, feathery, deciduous leaves, and two, it gets very large -- and for trees, the bigger the better -- and three, it has been given the catchy if not entirely accurate label, “Living fossil,” which led me to do an essay on it in first year university on which I got an A. The staying power of early success.

Dawn Redwood leaves, midsummer.

After my father died, the school at which he had taught decided to plant a tree in his memory. I was pleased that they chose Dawn Redwood. It grows quickly; I can see Dad’s tree on Google Earth.

Metasequoia. Cache Creek, BC. Kamloops Formation. Eocene, 50-45 mya.

When I left a job at a nature centre, one of the going-away gifts was from a paleontologist. I unwrapped the box and was thrilled. There it was, Metasequoia, in real fossil form -- and from British Columbia too.

Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Garden City Park Arboretum.

The trees at the arboretum are getting larger, on their way to a hundred feet or more. Every time I go by them I think of all the above things, and am thankful for the millennium stick farm.

For more on Metasequoia, see:


BerryBird said...

We had a dawn redwood planted on the campus of Small Green, where I studied (and later was a TA for) dendrology. I always loved this tree as well.

Steve said...

I have planted quite a few Dawn Redwoods. I discovered them, oddly enough, in Vancouver. In fact, at the same home I discovered Cryptomeria. You have a marvelous blog. I am glad I found you. Keep it up!