TREES & plants

Dawn redwood

Dawn redwood trees in fall color.

A large, conical-shaped tree reaching 70 to 100 feet high. Dawn redwood is closely related to bald cypress (Taxodium) and redwood (Sequoia). The fern-like feathery foliage emerges light green in spring, changing to dark green in summer, then a russet-brown in autumn. It grows best in large landscapes.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name: 
Metasequoia glyptostroboides
All Common Names: 
dawn redwood, water-fir, water-larch
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median, 
  • Restricted sites
Landscape Uses: 
  • Parkway/street, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
70-100 feet
Mature Width: 
25 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Prefers
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Intolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
Growth Rate: 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Best is moist, slightly acid soils.  Very little pruning needed.

Disease, pests, and problems

Nothing common; cankers can occur. 

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China and often found in wet sites.  This tree was once thought to be extinct.  It was found in China in 1941 and introduced into the United States in the late 1940s.

Bark color and texture 

The lower trunk is buttressed and the reddish-brown bark is rough, peeling into long strips.

Summer foliage of dawn redwood.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Leaves are deciduous needles held in branchlets that resemble the foliage of yews.  Needles are dark green in summer, changing to a russet color in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male and female flowers on the same tree in separate structures (monoecious).  Not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Cones are rounded and hang on stalks up to 1 1/2 inches long.  The cones are green at first, maturing to brown.

Cultivars and their differences

Gold Rush dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'):  This cultivar has golden yellow foliage and a narrow habit; grows 50 feet high and 20 feet wide.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides or Dawn redwood