Dawn Redwood: Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’

May 16th, 2010

In addition to the cedar I bought yesterday, I also bought a seqouia, a redwood, for here in Michigan. Crazy you say? Well, apparently, notsomuch.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'

What gardener doesn’t dream about having a massive redwood in their yard, and if we could live for a thousand years we might be able to get one, but instead I guess we must just relinquish ourselves to younger versions of the trees, which yes, you can grow outside of California.

There are three species known as redwoods or sequoias. Sequoia sempervirens or Coast Redwood, is the tallest known tree in the world and is the one you think of when you think of giant redwoods. The Sequoiadendron giganteum or Giant Sequoia is also one of the biggest trees and while there aren’t any known ones taller than a coast redwood, they are the biggest, by volume, trees in the world.

The third one, the one I bought is Metasequoia glyptostroboides or Dawn Redwood which I will call ‘metasequoia’ because I hate typing the rest of it out. I paid $32 for it, a 3 footer in a 1 gallon container. Got it from Gee Farms here in Michigan.

Metasequoias were thought to be extinct. There are fossil records of them all over the world, but no known survivors were located until 1944 when they were found growing in a secluded valley in china. It has since been exported for gardeners to grow all over the world. It is perhaps a good ecological choice to grow too, considering how close to extinction it is.

It is the smallest of the lot, alas, topping out, it is believed, at 200 feet (in many many years) but like it’s relatives it is a very fast grower to 50 or 100 feet. The fact is we just don’t know how big this tree can get because we have no 1000 year old samples to check out.

It is also the hardiest of the three. I have seen reports of it being hardy in zone 6, or 5, but quite a few sources stating zone 4, including some university sources which I consider to be accurate. Coast redwoods are the least hardy, but Sequiadendrons will supposedly take zone 5 (until you get a really really cold winter I suppose).

Sheltering and putting it in a microclimate such as on the south side of a hill where it will be protected from northern winds will probably help. Additionally, it needs full sun, so a hill is good there to, and it needs lots of water, so the base of a hill is also usually pretty damp. I do not have a hill, so it is going in my backyard. However I also bought a couple for my parents, and they have a hill (and are almost zone 4) so I told them to plant it as I described above.

There are a variety of Metasequoia cultivars now, many of which do not grow as fast as the species variety. The one I bought, ‘Gold Rush’ is supposed to grow as fast or only slightly slower, so that is good. It also has striking golden foliage which it is supposed to keep all year, which is rare for a sun lover. I like designing with contrasting foliage colors so this is a good choice for those applications.

Like a bald cypress (a cousin) the plants are deciduous conifers, so they lose their needles in the winter and go dormant (which probably aids their hardiness). Also like a bald cypress, they develop gorgeous trunks when older, which have to be my favorite feature of the plant. Corded, complex, reddish trunks, very pretty.

I have a small yard, and if my house still stands in 200 years the tree will probably be too big. But whomever the current owner is I suppose can always cut it down and use the valuable wood to build a deck or something.

In the meantime I will enjoy, consequently, I also think they may do well as bonsai. I have a dream of going out and planting cuttings on public land near my house, which should be preserved forever. So in generations there will be some huge trees growing there, my footprint on the future.

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