Forest 54 - Dawn Redwood

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Leaves of Metsequioa in Forest 54 Photo by L. Hawkes (2) 

Other common names

Chinese: shui shan

Origin of the species name

Metasequoia is from Greek meta meaning changed or transformed Sequoia, because of its similarity to that genus; glyptostroboides is the Latin form referring to the similarity of the cones to those of the genus Glyptostrobus.



Date planted

September 2009


Trees of this species are long-lived with the oldest known specimen estimated to be around 600 yearsYoung Metasequioa in Forest 54 Photo by L Hawkes 

General description

This is a large deciduous conifer with a symmetrical conical crown and fissured bark. It has with soft, bright green foliage that turns bronze in autumn. The small cones are spherical to ovoid and about 2-3cm in diameter. Height 35m Spread 10m.

Natural distribution and habitat

The species is native to Central China where it is found along what are now cultivated river valleys or in the moist bottoms of ravines.

Conservation status

Dawn redwood is now classified as endangered. Its natural habitat is surrounded by cultivated fields. It is thought that the older trees are relics of an original forest of dawn redwood. However, the cultivation means there is little chance of the forests regenerating and the remaining stands are all reduced to one or at best a few trees.  The mature trees are protected but there is little chance of new trees developing in the changed environment. Like the Wollemi pine it is a species that needs protection to stop it becoming extinct in the wild.

Planting pattern

Forest 54 straddles both sides of River Road. Spaces in the pattern form the trunk of a tree with upswept symmetrical branches.


While the trees were possibly used for timber this is now prohibited. Since its identification in 1945 it has been very successful as an ornamental tree, being cultivated in most of the world's countries in temperate regions. Like the Wollemi pine, its closest relatives are known only from fossils.

Further reading

Farjon, A (2010) A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Brill.