The Dawn redwood is an endangered species so additional care should be taken by owner land owners lucky enough to have them. They are native to China and were only recently discovered in 1944. Up until then they were believed to be extinct. Luckily groups of people helped to collect the seeds which were then planted throughout the world. This is a success story in itself as many tree species have gone extinct before any attempts were made to save the parent trees or grow from seeds or cuttings. There are 3 Dawn redwood trees in the St Thomas pleasure grounds and also a good sized specimen within the grounds of Waitrose in Exeter,
The Dawnwood is part of the Redwood family of which there are three species. The other two are the Giant redwood and the Coastal redwood. They all all conifers but the Dawn redwood is the odd one out as it deciduous rather than being evergreen. Also the Dawn redwood is the smallest of the three Redwoods but they can still reach heights of up to 50m!
The buds are arranged oppositely
The bark is quite papery and looks like it is peeling. It's soft and reddish in colour
There are mixed views on the lifespan of these trees but it's likely to be thousands of years (in their natural habitat). In the UK they are likely to live considerably shorter lives as they most of them are in parks. Sadly the younger trees tend to suffer serious lower branch damage as they are very low to the ground and children tend to climb on them and stand on the branches. Due to the way these tree grows the use of tree guards isn't easily possible. Given enough time the size of the tree can become fairly large and the trunk can exceed 2 metres in diameter. They are also a fast growing tree species and can grow over half a meter in a year.
The younger female cones are green and marble shaped
The mature female cones are brown woody structures that house and protect the seeds inside
It is monoecious in nature which means the male cones (pollen bearing) and the female cones (seed bearing) are on the same tree but different parts. The male cones tend to grow in groups where as the female cones are more singular. They can self fertilise meaning they do not have to rely on other Dawn redwood trees to reproduce. The mature female cones will grow and release seeds providing the summers are hot enough. Unlike some conifers the seeds of Dawn redwood will grow with relative ease. In China it is also known as the 'water fir' probably because it will grow quite happily in rice paddies.
The male flowers release pollen in late winter / early sping
The leaves are in opposite pairs
Although the flowers are inconspicuous the tree really stands out in Autumn when the leaves change from green to vibrant orange and red. They are easily identifiable during the Autumn where are in the Winter they are sometimes mistaken as being dead conifers. The leaves are opposite and look a little bit like those of the Common yew. The Dawn redwood is easily mixed up with the Swamp cypress - the key difference is the leaves on the Swamp cypress are alternate.