Species: Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The dawn redwood was known only from ancient fossils, until a small population was discovered in the forests of Central China in 1944.
Considered to be one of the greatest botanical finds of the 20th century, the dawn redwood has been dubbed a ‘living fossil’. This coniferous tree grows with an orange-brown, thick, tapering trunk and a broad, buttressed base. Green in the spring and summer, the leaves of this deciduous tree turn a vibrant reddish-brown before falling to the ground in autumn. The dawn redwood is a monoecious species, meaning the male and female reproductive organs are borne on the same tree. This species is wind pollinated, and small, winged seeds then develop inside the cone, which splits when ripe, allowing wind to disperse the seeds across the landscape. In favourable habitat, the dawn redwood may grow up to 80 centimetres per year, reaching incredible heights over 40 metres, with a lifespan of over 100 years.
Existing in several fragmented, relict populations, the largest of which numbered only around 120 mature trees in 2006, the dawn redwood is one of Asia’s rarest trees. Since its discovery this species has been protected, and a number of reserves have been created to protect the remaining trees.
Find out more about the dawn redwood with Kew Royal Botanical Gardens.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author