One of the more notable trees in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens is the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). The Dawn Redwood is a unique and magnificent tree, and one with a very interesting history as well.
The Dawn Redwood is a tall tree with fern-like, feathery needles. One of its unusual features is that it is a deciduous conifer – the needles change from green to russet brown in the fall and then drop from the tree. The resulting “winter” look is quite striking, as seen above.
Another interesting feature of the Dawn Redwood is the bark – rough, red and sometimes peels in long strips.
The history of the Dawn Redwood is a very interesting one. It existed on earth more than 50 million years ago, the only sign of existence being fossils found in Asia and North America. That all changed in 1941 when a Chinese botanist discovered an unusual tree in a remote village – samples later confirmed that it was a Dawn Redwood. A few years later a grove of Dawn Redwood was discovered in an isolated valley in China. The Arnold Arboretum was the first North American institution to receive seeds and was instrumental in their distribution to botanical gardens and universities around the world. Now, seven decades later, the Dawn Redwood is commercially available in garden centres and nurseries everywhere. For more in depth reading on the history of the Dawn Redwood, have a look at this publication by the Arnold Arboretum.
If you want one for your own property, plan carefully – it grows very tall, 70-100 feet, and can reach up to 40 feet in width. But given the space, it is a magnificent tree. Below is a photo taken several winters ago showing the long shadow cast by one of our Dawn Redwoods… in the centre of the shot.
We actually have several Dawn Redwoods in the Gardens, very close to our pond bridge. Have a look next time you are visiting!