Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Redwoods & Sequoias

Redwoods aren't just for California...

Here are the 3 species of Redwoods that are planted around the world. All of which are among the worlds tallest trees

Metasequoia glyptostroboides ( Dawn Redwood )
Amazingly before being discovered in a remote sw. Chinese village in 1941, this tree was known only from fossils and thought to be extinct. It is a deciduous leaf relative of the Worlds largest trees - the Giant Sequoia and California Redwood. Fossil evidence shows this tree was once widespread before the ice age and existed on earth for 20 million years. Fossil evidence of it has been found over much of the western U.S. It still has no known pests or diseases. Since 1941 more trees were discovered shortly after however unfortunately in 1949 the biggest population of 6000 trees was logged.
The Dawn Redwood is a very fast growing and extremely tall tree. It is also very sturdy and is not easily injured in storms. It can grow to 240 x 100 feet with a trunk diameter of 12 feet. In less than 70 years many are already huge ( 120 x 50 x 5 feet in Williamsburg, VA & 100 x 33 x 5 feet at Winterthur, Delaware; 130 + feet at Longwood Gardens near Philly ). Known to grow up to 10 feet per year, some reported growth rates include 15' tall with trunk diam of 3.2 inches in 4 years, 50 feet in 7 years, 35 feet with trunk diam. of 13 inches in 14 years and 120 x 20 feet in 25 years.
The Dawn Redwood also tolerates urban pollution and is very cold hardy thriving from zones 5 to 9 and possibly into some areas of zone 4. Some reports of extreme cold hardiness also exist. Survival of -40 F is known and zone 3 hardiness was shown during the severe winter of 1950 in southeast Alaska where the ground froze to a depth of 4 feet.
The leaves are to 2 inches long and linear; dark green in color and turn red in late fall before falling. The attractive bark is cinnamon brown and peeling. Most trees are limbed up to some extent to show off the bark. The Dawn Redwood looks awesome whether single or in groves. It is also flood tolorant and can be used on wet sites like the Bald Cypress. Generally pest and disease resistant, however Spider Mites and Japanese Beetle may attack young plants which can then be treated with bayer systemic. Lawn mower damage can cause trees to get attacked by canker. Propagation is from cuttings taken during late summer or seed sown during autumn.

* photos taken on Feb 2009 @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C.

* taken @ Longwood Gardens, Philly on March 2004

* taken in Bethesda, Maryland in March 2004

* haha that's me in there - a long time ago...

* photo taken on April 11 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum

* photos taken on May 5 2010 @McCrillis Gardens, Bethesda, MD

* photos taken on May 6 2010 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

* photo taken on 4th of July 2010 in Washington, D.C.

* photos taken on July 17 2010 @ Morris Arboretum, Philly, PA

* photo taken on August 3 2010 @ University of Guelph Arboretum, Ontario

* photos taken on August 4 2010 @ Birnam Woods Arboretum, Stratford, Ontario

* photo taken on October 17 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C.

* photos taken on November 7 2010 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on Nov 17 2012 in Baltimore Co., MD

* photos taken on Mar 7 2013 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD
* photo taken on July 10 2013 in Columbia, MD
* photo taken on July 30 2014 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on July 15 2015 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on July 26 2015 @ Niagara Parks Bot. Gardens, Niagara Falls, ON

* photo taken on Feb 1 2016 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on July 15 2016 in Goderich, ON

* photo taken on Nov 19 2016 @ London Town Gardens, Edgewater, MD

* photos taken on Nov 28 2016 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on Mar 18 2017 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

* photo taken on Aug 8 2017 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on Mar 8 2018 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

* photo taken by http://www.nwplants.com

'Gold Rush'
Almost identical but with golden-yellow foliage that turns to orange-brown in autumn. This graceful tree is pyramidal in habit with a feathery appearance. Less hardy only as far north as zone 5 and slower growing to 50 x 12 feet in 20 years and eventually 100 x 25 feet.

* photos taken on May 8 2010 @ McCrillis Gardens, Bethesda, MD

* photo taken on June 23 2013 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC

* photo taken on Apr 23 2017 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

* photo taken on Aug 5 2017 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

'Schirrmann's Nordlicht' ( North Light Dawn Redwood )

* photo taken on Mar 18 2017 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

* photo taken on Apr 23 2017 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

* photos taken on Aug 5 2017 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD

'Sheridan Spire'
Very fast growing, narrow-columnar form.
The foliage is bright green.

Sequoia sempervirens ( Coast Redwood )
Native to coastal areas of Oregon and California; this tree is adaptable to many other regions of the world especially the Pacific northwest from OR - B.C., the British Isles and southern Chile. Fossilized evidence shows that it was native to Europe before the last ice age. In its native range there was an estimated 2 million acres of Redwood in 1770; now there is only 100 000 acres left. The ( official ) tallest tree of the world ( possible taller Douglas Firs - near Vancouver, B.C. and Eucalyptus regnans - Australia cut in the 1800s ). The Redwood is also fast growing to 100 feet in 20 years. Some other recorded growth rates include: 3 years - 16 feet; 20 years - 2 feet in trunk diameter; 27 years - 2.6 feet in trunk diameter; 42 years - 117 feet; 53 years - 5 feet in trunk diameter; 80 years - 200 foot height with 7.5 foot trunk diameter; 122 years - trunk diameter 12 feet!; 130 years - 262 feet. In the hot humid summers of the eastern U.S. the Redwood grows slower but still fast compared to most other trees. Seasonal growth over 3 feet has been recorded at Athens, Georgia and 93 x 43 feet with a trunk diameter of 5 feet recorded in 53 years in Virginia as well as 80 x 32 x 2 feet recorded in Wicomico County, Maryland.
While lightning may limit its eventual height in the Eastern U.S.; in protected valleys in the west this tree can eventually exceed 300 feet with some ancient giants reaching over 360 feet. While heights up to 425 feet were rumored in the 19th century; the official tallest Redwoods are
1) a 380 foot tree cut in 1912
2) the 'Hyperion Tree" measured in 2006 is 379.3 feet
Some of the largest Coast Redwoods are up to 80 feet in canopy width and 26 feet in trunk diameter ( measured at approx. 5 feet off the ground; up to 33 feet across the base reported ). The Coast Redwood grows with a dense conical shape and can live to a maximum age of 2500 years!
The foliage is dark green and needle like to 0.7 inches in length.
The very thick deeply ridged bark is red-brown and exfoliates in strips.
The barrel shape cones to 1.3 inches take a year to ripen.
Hardy from zones 7 to 9; the Coast Redwood grows best in cool humid climates on deep, acidic to neutral, fertile, well drained soils. It does not like pollution, extreme heat or flooding. A deep organic mulch such as pine needles is recommended for young trees.
Foliage may drop in extremely cold winters. The Giant Redwood grows well on the Coastal Plain of the Black Sea in Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine & Crimea. In North America, it thrives on the Pacific Coast as far north as the Queen Charlotte Islands. On the Atlantic Coast, it is know to thrive as far north as Long Island where the moderating influence of the Atlantic causes temperatures to rarely drop below 0 F. The Redwood can resprout from a stump unlike most conifers. If young plants freeze to the ground, to not remove them...they will often regrow vigorously. Propagate from seed or heeled cutting.

* photos of unknown internet source

* photos taken on October 17 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C.

* photo taken by Gene Ahrens @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* photo taken by A.G. Brenneis @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* photos taken by Leland J. Prater @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* historical archive photos

* historic archive photo of fossilized Redwood

* photo taken by Albert Everett Wieslander and the Marian Koshland Bioscience and Natural Resources Library

More cold hardy tolerating as low as -10 F and also slower growing to 13 x 6.6 feet in 20 years and 90 x 20 feet in 100 years. It is bushy to column shaped. The leaves to 0.4 inches in length are creamy white at the tips of the shoots in spring and summer.

* historical archive photo

'Aptos Blue'
Upright in habit with blue foliage. Fast growing, up to 6 feet per year, eventually exceeding 200 feet.

'Emily Brown'
Very columnar in habit, growing at a rate up to 6 feet per year.
The foliage is bright green.
Hardy zones 7 to 9

Very fast growing ( up to 6 feet per year ) and upright conical in habit.
The foliage is intensely bright blue foliage.
Hardy zones 7 to 9

'Los Altos'
Very tall and semi weeping with dark green foliage.

* photos taken on Feb 8 2015 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC

to 30 x 6.6 feet in 20 years; eventually more. It eventually grows tall but with a narrow habit and weeping branches.

A large conical tree with upswept branches.
The foliage is very deep green.
Possibly hardier, into zone 6.

'Simpsons Silver'
Very fast growing with growth rates up to 6 ( record of 12 ) feet per year.
The foliage is silvery-blue.
Possibly hardier, into zone 6.

Sequoiadendron giganteum ( Giant Sequoia )
The worlds largest tree ( 350 x 90 x 38 feet! ); it is also very fast growing in cultivation outside of its native Sierra Mountains of California. Fortunately it grows well in many parts of the world because in its native range there are only 35 000 acres of Sequoia left. It has been recorded to grow 6 feet in a single year with a trunk diameter increase of 2 inches. Some reported growth rates include: 7 feet in 3rd year, 9.5 feet in 4th year, trunk diameter of 3.5 inches in 5th year; 30 feet + in 10 years; D. 1.8 feet in 15 years; 66 x 20 feet in 20 years; D. 2.7 feet in 24 years; 87 feet in 35 years; 100+ feet with diameter of 4.3 feet in 50 years; D. 6.1 feet in 60 years; 150 feet with trunk diameter of 9 feet in 100 years, 167 feet in 111 years and D. 11 feet in 126 years; 150 years - 177 feet with a trunk diameter of 12 feet! In fact these trees often grow faster further north on the West Coast into Canada, in the Eastern U.S. ( north of NC ) and in Europe thriving off increased rainfall than they do in their native California. The Giant Sequoia grows very well in England, southern France & northern Italy. In the eastern U.S. the largest trees grow at Tyler Arboretum near Philly and Blithewold Mansion in Bristol, Rhode Island where a tree planted in 1911 is now 100 feet tall. Fossil evidence shows the Sequoia was once widespread growing wild in North America and Europe before the ice age. The Giant Sequoia can live up to 4000 years.
Its deep blue green, scaly needles can last up to 4 years.
The reddish-brown very thick fibrous bark is also very attractive.
Hardy zones 5 to 9 and can tolerate -25 F ( report of no damage at -34 F in Poland while ground was insulated by heavy snowfall ). Propagation is from cuttings taken during winter or seed which germinates fairly easily. The Giant Sequoia prefers full sun on deep rich well drained soil.


* photos of unknown internet source

* photo taken on Feb 2009 @ U.S. National Arboretum

* taken @ Tyler Arboretum near Philly on August 2004

* photos of unknown source on internet

* photos taken on July 17 2010 @ Morris Arboretum, Philly, PA

* photo of unknown internet source

* historical archive photos

'Hazel Smith'
Almost identical but with striking light blue foliage. Maximum growth rate recorded is 6 feet. One tree in New jersey reached 3 feet in trunk diameter in 40 years.
Hardy north to zone 5

* photo taken on May 16 2010 @ Cylburn Arboretum, Baltimore, MD

* photo taken on July 26 2015 @ Niagara Parks Bot. Gardens, Niagara Falls, ON

very narrow and slower growing with very pendulous branches. Reaches 20 x 6.6 feet in 20 years and eventually to 33 x 33 feet.

'Powder Blue'
About the same as 'Hazel Smith'.
Possibly hardier than species, known to survive in southern Michigan.

A miniature only reaching up to 13 feet in 50 years


  1. Hi Randy,
    Very informative writing as usual.
    When a Dawn Redwood is located close to a house (say about 10-12 ft), will the root system damage the foundation of the house?

  2. Not as bad as many trees such as Maples, Poplars and Willow. I have seen one in Columbia, MD that is over 60 feet and just 4 feet from a house and another very large tree in a small lawn dwarfing the fast food restaurant next to it ( I think I'll have to photograph that tree and post it here in a few days ). So far I just haven't heard of any damage complaints and a Eugene, Oregon Heritage Tree that is a Dawn Redwood is growing in a very confined place next to a building

    I really can't give any guarantees since it is a huge tree but it is along with the Black Tupelo ( Nyssa sylvatica ) one of the few large trees that I haven't seen lift and crack sidewalks.

  3. Another intersting site on Redwoods


    and an interesting site on large trees in general

  4. Interesting link on the Dawn Redwood Preserve in North Carolina

  5. Randy
    Thanks for the useful info. I planted one more than 15 years ago. With the extension of my house, it is about 12 ft from my house, and is about 30 ft tall; a beautiful tree. I was afraid that I may have to cut it. Your info plus some pictures of a street in Seatle showing Redwood trees next to the stores give me some comfort that I don't need to rush to cut it.

  6. Do you have any important pointers for growing Sequoia Giganteum in USDA zone 5b? I would appreciate any information you could give.