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Vanishing Acts: Dawn Redwood

By James Moody

Dawn Redwood
Dawn Redwood

While fleeing the impending Japanese invasion of the Chinese mainland, well-to-do members of the aristocracy were scouting possible safe zones deep in the wild interior of China, when a forester discovered a tree unlike anything he had previously experienced. Considered one of the greatest botanical finds of the 20th century, the dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, was known only from ancient fossils until a small population was discovered in the forests of Central China in 1941. Limited to only three Provinces in Central and Southeast China, the dawn redwood has an extremely small and fragmented range. Villagers fed the leaves to their cattle and used the wood for bridges and other construction. It is most certain that if the metasequoia had not been protected in preserves, it would indeed most likely already be extinct.
The dawn redwood, while extremely rare in the wild, has flourished as an ornamental tree and since its discovery thousands upon thousands of trees have been planted in cities, parks, and homes. Dawn redwoods are the smallest of the three redwoods and typically attain a height of 60 feet tall, but the dawn redwood has been known to reach heights approaching 160 feet tall with a trunk of about 7 feet in diameter.

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Vanishing Acts: Trees Under Threat was developed and produced by The Morton Arboretum in association with the Global Trees Campaign, a partnership between Fauna and Flora International and Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

Funding for this exhibit comes from The Morton Arboretum and the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services, Museums for America Grant Program.

Support locally comes from LG&E and KU. Additional support provided by Shepherdsville/Bullitt County Tourism.

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