METASEQUOIA: As a follow up, if you are looking for another tree
consider the Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood). It is also a
prehistoric Chinese tree.
Until 1945 the dawn redwood was known only in the form of fossils
collected by paleobotanists and was thought to have been extinct for
perhaps a million years. After it was discovered alive and well in the
remote village of Motao-chi in the Chinese province of Szechwan, the
Arnold Arboretum of Boston sent a special expedition to the area. The
seeds collected were shared with other botanical gardens around the
world, and this deciduous conifer is now widely available from
Mature trees in China are broadly conical and grow about 100 feet tall
from thick buttressed roots. Presumably they will eventually attain a
similar size in this country--young plants grow 3 feet or more a
year--making them too tall for the average garden. On a large lawn,
however, they can attract attention not only for their history but for
their foliage. Soft, bright green needles, about 3/4 inch long, appear
in early spring, then turn pinkish brown before falling in the autumn.
Brown cones 3/4 inch long ripen each year.
Dawn redwood is hardy to Zone 5. It thrives in full sun in almost any
moist soil. Because it tends to continue growing until late in the
summer, it should be planted in a location not subject to early frosts--
thus plant on a hillside rather than in a valley. Growth is symmetrical
and pruning is not necessary.
GINKGO: Regarding Ginkgo, there are no known forests of ginkgoes, even
in China, where Western travelers first found them in the 17th Century
growing in temple gardens. These few cultivated trees turned out to be
living relics of prehistoric times, among the last survivors of one of
the first groups of plants that abandoned spore propagation for the more
efficient seed method. The impressions of their ancestors' leaves may be
seen in various parts of the world, including the United States, in
rocks that are known to be millions of years old. The tree is called
maidenhair tree because the 4-inch smooth green leaves resemble those of
the maidenhair fern. They are fan-shaped, tough and completely free of
insects and diseases, and turn a lovely shade of yellow in fall. The
Chinese have another name for the ginkgo that is derived from the shape
of its leaves: they call it "the tree with leaves like a duck's foot."
The ginkgo is not the tree for every backyard. One reason is that it
eventually reaches a height of up to 80 feet with a spread of 40 feet or
more, but another factor of importance is that it needs nearly 20 years
to get over the gawky stages of adolescence and develop the broadly
spreading branches of maturity. Young trees 8 to 10 feet tall may
require 10 to 12 years to reach 20 feet in height. When they are young,
ginkgoes are characterized by long ascending branches that develop
asymmetrically. Once recommended for urban plantings because it
tolerated fumes and dust, the ginkgo has been discovered to be among the
first trees damaged by air pollutants.
Nurserymen generally sell only the male trees.
Both are good trees for the home landscape since they have deep roots
and other plants such as rhododendrons and azaleas can be planted under
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