D20: Dawn Redwood: Metasequoia glyptostroboides

This is a fast growing deciduous conifer and is living fossil, the only member of its family still living. It was discovered in 1941 by a Chinese forester and found to be related to three fossils species in 1946. It is unlike other Redwoods and most other conifers in that its leaves are deciduous. Only 5500 trees exist in the wild and over-collection of seed means that it is not reproducing in its native sites but it is well protected. It has become a popular tree for planting in parks and concentrating on genetic diversity means that it should survive.

The tree can grow to over 50 m and thrives in temperate regions, including in standing water like the Swamp Cypress, Taxodium. The leaves are opposite and the young branches form regular planted sprays which droop. The leaves turn a fine rust colour in autumn. The female cones are like those of a cedar, but about 2×1.4 cm

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