Metasequoia glyptostroboides. DAWN REDWOOD. China
The story of this living fossil from its discovery in 1941
to the point where sizable specimens all over the world now guarantee its survival
is worth hearing. The tree was well known from Arctic fossils and at first considered
to be redwood; if you look at the tree you will agree that the leaves resemble
those of the coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, and the cones are rather similar
also. However, if you examine the leaves carefully you will conclude that the
arrangement is decussate (arranged in pairs each at right angles to the next pair
above or below) with an extra quirk whereby a twist between each pair brings the
spray of leaves into one plane. The redwood leaf is quite unlike that. Well, Mr.
Wang collected leaves and cones from living specimens in Central China in 1944
-- apparently as many as 1000 had survived in the mountains between Sichuan and
Hubei -- and within two or three years a move was afoot in China to distribute
TAXODIACEAE (Taxodium family)
The specimen in the grounds of the Lou Henry Hoover House off Cabrillo Avenue, which was planted by President and Mrs. J.E. Wallace Sterling on November 6, 1953, when 4 feet high, was raised by Prof. Ralph W. Chaney from seed collected from China, and has now borne seed itself. A very fine specimen at the Palo Alto Post Office on Waverley Street near Hamilton Avenue, planted March 7, 1949, was one of the earliest to be brought from China. Younger trees are at Escondido Elementary School behind 856 Esplanada Way; three near the northeast corner of the Bookstore (already fruiting), and one nearby toward the Center for Educational Research at Stanford (CERAS), and two big ones opposite 828 Lathrop Drive.
In the fall, these trees turn bronze and drop their leaves. Dawn redwood leaped from the stage of botanical exploration to worldwide cultivation in record time. The Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis, Araucariaceae) discovered in 1994 within 50 miles of Sydney, thought to have been extinct since the Carboniferous Era, is repeating the performance.
Illustrations (links open new windows): Silhouettes from Trees of Stanford & its EnvironsAdditions/Revisions: Fifteen young trees were planted in White Plaza in Summer 2008.
Name derivation, genus | speciesRelated material: Gymnosperm Database | Canopy Trees for Palo Alto Tree Library | SHRF Plant Culture Data Sheets