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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):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Restricted sites

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

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


  • Dry sites,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Road salt

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

Seasons 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.

Location of Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn redwood) at the Arboretum