Dawn Redwood: The Most Under-Used Landscape Tree

By: John McMakin

Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Dawn Redwood, is a beautiful, fast growing deciduous conifer that reaches heights of over 100 feet tall. The Sequoia sempervirens ‘Coastal Redwood’ and the Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Giant Redwood’ found in the well-known California Redwood Forests are their evergreen cousins. The Dawn Redwood species originated in South Asia with fossil records dating back to Mesozoic Era, which was 250 million years ago. The first Dawn Redwoods were introduced in the United States back in the 1940’s during World War II to help prevent their extinction due to over harvesting practices and Japan’s military advancements in Southeast Asia.

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Since their introduction back in the 1940’s, Dawn Redwoods have proven to be an extremely adaptable species and are cold hardy across zones 4-8. The species also can tolerate a wide array of site conditions as well. The hardy conifers are also tolerate of wet, nutrient poor and compacted urban planting areas. They are also tolerant of poor air quality conditions that are often an issue in many cities across the country. These qualities make the Dawn Redwood an excellent urban tree choice where space allows.

The average mature size of the Dawn Redwood is 75-125’ in height and 20-30’ in width. Nurserymen across the country grow this species both limbed to the ground and with clear trunk. This species also keeps a strong central growing leader with 45 degree lateral branching that makes it a very stable tree along streets or parking areas. The soft, dark green needles give the dawn redwood an unique fern-like appearance that will enhance any landscape. The foliage turns to a brilliant yellow to orange color during the fall.

Dawn Redwoods are currently drawn in by architects and landscape designers that are familiar with the species across the country. I think you will be seeing it used more and more as green industry becomes more accustomed to the name and its attributes. Dawn Redwood has been one my favorite trees for many years and I wanted to share some of this information with my fellow friends in the green industry.


  1. Ben A. LePage, Hong Yang & Midori Matsumoto(2005).The Evolution and biogeographic history of Metasequoia. In Le Page et al (2005).
  2. B.G.Hibberd, ed. (1989). Urban Forestry Practice, Forestry Commission Handbook. In Hibberd (1989)


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