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Diverse Results with Metasequoia glyptostroboides

About 12 years ago I purchased 25 individually potted dawn redwood seedlings from Musser Forests, a bulk provider, thinking to plant an allay of trees along my very long driveway in Pennsylvania. They had a caliper of approximately 1/8″, perhaps 8″ to 10 ” tall, and I planted them 25′ apart. I planted all but 4, which I brought back to my other home in Brooklyn to “heel-in” over the winter. My Brooklyn back yard measures about 20 feet wide and 36 feet deep, a postage stamp really!

I got very busy for the next four years working on a gut/ rehab of the Brooklyn property. I was the designer, general contractor, head carpenter, and electrican in the renovation of a house built in 1847. My gardens in both places suffered as a result of my exhaustion and inattention. I just did not have the time or energy to devote to gardening duties. In Pennsylvania, the result was an overgrown tangle of specimens that I had initially placed too close together. In Brooklyn, the redwoods burst their tiny pots and sent roots deep into the soil.

The Pennsylvania dawns were mostly healthy, but there were some losses due to deer and rodent predation, Allegheny mound ants, and the annual August/September dry spell that really qualifies each year as a mini-drought. They made very slow progress, and now stand about 3 1/2 feet tall with a 3/4″ caliper.

The Brooklyn four shot up like rockets, in a rear yard area enclosed by buildings that provided a protected, continuously damp environment, with soil too rich by half in organic material, but with a healthy daily dose of sunshine. These trees, too, suffered from my overwhelming work load, and remained where I had “temporarily” heeled them in. Two were crowded out and died, The remaining two, trunks touching at the base, have grown to 40′ tall, with a trunk diameter at ground level of 15″ Much to my surprise, these trees coned for the first time in 2014! I had read that dawn redwoods did not mature until they were 35 years old. It seems to me that acquired growth and size, and not the actual age of the trees is what fosters sexual maturity. Assuming that the original saplings were perhaps two years old, these trees are 14 years of age.

The Brooklyn back yard is a jumble, containing, in addition to the two redwoods, a monkey puzzle tree, a blue atlas cedar, and an additional assortment of conifers and deciduous trees, some planted by the former owner, and some by me. This tiny space supports a number of specimens that are quite large, as well as dwarf plantings, flowering annuals, and usually a couple of tomato plants.


7 comments to “Diverse Results with Metasequoia glyptostroboides

  1. Colby Feller commented

    Could you post some pictures of these trees in your Brooklyn backyard? Your post has garenered a lot of hits, and It indeed sounds like an urban “jungle”.

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  2. Edward Gianfrancesco commented

    I have not had a chance to take some photos of the Dawn Redwood trees in the bsck yard. I will get it. Efward Gianfrancesco

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  3. Ethan Johnson commented

    At The Holden Arboretum, we received 100 seedlings of Metasequoia in 1990 from Rutgers University – the original source being wild trees in China throughout its rather limited natural range. I was excited to note in 2003 that some of the trees bore cones. Some of the trees also produced cones in 2006, 2008, and 2013. Perhaps the literature refers to 30 years as being the age that you can expect a reliable crop of cones to be produced.

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  4. davidstrang commented

    I am a new member of the ACS, and I live at the edge of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I planted two Dawn Redwoods in my yard in 1988. One tree is in full sun and has overtopped the
    native White Oaks at about 80′, and the other, in partial shade with some competition from a nearby
    Blue Beech, is almost the size of the full sun individual. I have a lot of conifers on my property, many
    of them non-native to PA. There are quite a number, too, that I dug up in the wilds of my native Northern Wisconsin, and had USAir transport them back with me in the good old days before the present security restrictions.

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  5. David Olszyk commented

    Welcome to the society, David. I think I speak for all of us by inviting you to post some pictures and share more of your conifer based experiences.

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  6. Bill Blevins commented

    I’ve been documenting one in my yard since I planted it in 2013. Here are a ton of photos with dates on all of them except for when I planted it but it was probably early summer that year. There is a photo of a very small cone in the photo from April 19, 2016: Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Ogon’

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