Selling dawn redwood

As with last week, this past week and weekend were largely occupied by my role as a faculty advisor for the MSU Horticulture club.  This weekend was our annual Spring Show and Plant Sale.  Each year our undergraduates commandeer the Horticulture department’s conservatory, bring in a boatload of plants, pavers, turf and mulch and design and install a landscape.  It’s actually quite a process to watch.
In addition to the Spring Show the Hort Club puts on a plant sale, which is the group’s principle fund-raiser for the year.  My duty station for this year’s plant sale was working outside in the tree sales yard.  For the record, retail is not my thing but, hey, it’s for a good cause. The star of our tree sale this year was a container-grown 14’ dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostraboides).

For those not familiar with this tree, dawn redwood is an incredible tree.  It’s a deciduous conifer, similar in many respects to bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) but with a finer, more refined character.  Metasequoia is considered by some to be a ‘Living fossil’, similar to Gingko biloba.  The genus Metasequoia was originally described in 1941 from Chinese fossils from the Mesozoic era.  Although local people in China knew the tree and used it as an ornamental, living trees were not formally described by botanists until 1948.

Dawn redwood is well adapted to wetter sites

Seed collected by Arnold Arboretum in the late 1940’s were distributed to universities and arboreta and this attractive, fast-growing tree found its way into the nursery trade.  Ironically, millions of Metasequioa have been planted as ornamental trees but the species is considered critically endangered due to loss of its native habitat in China.  Dawn redwood is extremely fast growing and some trees planted in the U.S. from the original collections in the 1940’s are reportedly 3’ in diameter.

Dawn redwoods on MSU campus

So, how did I fare in nursery sales for a day?  Put it this way, I better hang on to my day job; retail is still not quite my thing – though I did move the dawn redwood and got to spend a good bit of my weekend talking about this awesome tree.

7 thoughts on “Selling dawn redwood”

  1. We planted a four foot tree in 1975. It is a lovely thing- but if you have it too close to the house it puts its needles and pollen bearing structures in the house gutter. There is no way to exclude these fine little leaflets. The tree also drops branches without rhyme or reason. It is handsome, though. We live in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

  2. There is a majestic planting of these trees at the St. Louis Botanic Gardens. I would guess they are from the original seed distribution shortly after WW II.

  3. ‘Gold Rush’ is my favorite plant in our home garden. We put it in front of a mature purple-leaf plum = fabulousness.

  4. I used to love looking at these on the campus at MSU when I was in Forestry classes at the Nat. Res. building. I plant both dawn redwood and baldcypress in the town I work for now too. Great trees and they grow fast, which isn’t always a combination you get with street trees.

  5. There is a majestic planting of these trees at the St. Louis Botanic Gardens. I would guess they are from the original seed distribution shortly after WW II.

  6. Brent:
    I would put dawn redwood in the ‘uncommon but not rare’ category. Not something you’ll find in a big box store but something to look for a large local garden center. I’m assuming you mean metro Detroit area. I know Ray Wiegand’s Nursery and Gee Farms both carry it.

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