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Botanic Garden
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First UK Dawn Redwood

First UK Dawn Redwood
The Dawn Redwood: A living fossil

Thought to have been extinct for over 5 million years, this dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, was the first to be planted in Britain after its chance discovery in 1941 when T. Kan, a forester from the National Central University, Beijing, stumbled upon a strange new tree growing in a remote Szechuan village.

In 1946, after five years of specimens being 'lost in the post', the tree was finally determined to belong to the genus Metasequoia, hitherto only known from fossil evidence dating back 100 million years, and thought to have been extinct for 5 million years.

The first consignment of seed to head west reached the Arnold Arboretum, USA, in January 1948. However, the seed from which this specimen (in the photograph) was grown came directly from a Dr. Silow in Beijing. This head start allowed the Cambridge University Botanic Garden to be the first to plant out a dawn redwood on British soil.

The dawn redwood is now a familiar sight in the UK, but in China it is restricted to just a few small and scattered stands, and has been declared 'critically endangered' by the World Conservation Union.

Nice light. It looks a very healthy specimen
4 years ago.