Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) was unknown until about 60 years ago, when it was discovered in the form of fossils collected by paleobotanists. At the time, the tree was thought to have been extinct for perhaps a million years. One year later, Dawn Redwood was discovered alive and well in the remote village of Motao-chi in the Chinese province of Szechwan. A Boston arboretum sent a special expedition to the area. The seeds collected were shared with other botanical gardens around the world, and this deciduous conifer is now widely available. Mature trees in China are broadly conical and grow about 100 feet tall from thick buttressed roots. Presumably they will eventually attain a similar size in the U.S. and elsewhere--young plants grow 3 feet or more a year. On a large lawn, they can attract attention not only for their history but for their foliage. Soft, bright green needles, about 3/4 inch long, appear in early spring, then turn pinkish brown before falling in the autumn. Brown cones 3/4 inch long ripen each year.
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