Metasequoia glyptostroboides (pictured: M.g. ‘Ogon’), the Dawn Redwood, is a fast-growing deciduous conifer, native to the Sichuan-Hubei region in China. Once thought to be extinct, the tree was rediscovered by a forester in 1944 and has recently become available in the garden trade thanks to the efforts of the Arnold Arboretum (Harvard University). In 1948 they sent an expedition team to China to procure seeds from the tree, after which time the seeds were distributed to various universities around the world for growth trials. It is now the only living species from the genus Metasequoia.
The tree is very easy to grow and hardy to Zone 5. It tolerates wet and boggy soils, but is also widely adaptable. The Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve established in 1995 in North Carolina is a privately owned 50-acre park dedicated to the re-establishment of dawn redwood trees for the Blue Ridge Mountains. (The preserve is slated to open to the public in 2035.)
The re-introduction of these trees into a natural habitat has not occurred in approximately 35 million years. Fossils from Metasequoia glyptostroboides can be traced back to the Mesozoic Era (also known as the Age of Reptiles), which makes this a truly unique landscape tree.
Taxodium distichum (Bald Cypress), is another fast-growing deciduous conifer suitable to wet and boggy soils, hardy to Zone 4. Its native range is the southeastern United States where it grows happily along stream beds and river banks. The pyramidal tree is notable for its “buttresses” which flare out around the bottom portion of the trunk. When grown near the water, large roots called “knees” protrude from the ground on older trees. The wood from the bald cypress is valued for its water resistance and is thus known as ‘wood eternal.’
Interestingly, the bald cypress is another ancient tree, boasting 1,700 year-old trees in the swamp lands of Florida, North Carolina, and Arkansas.