When life seems simple, when trees with needles are evergreen and trees with broad leaves are deciduous and drop their leaves, I am here to remind you that things are rarely simple. Meet: dawn redwood or Metasequoia.
This tree, which you can find in several places in Cleveland Metroparks, is a conifer (cone-bearing), has needles instead of broad leaves like a maple tree, and it is deciduous, meaning it drops its needles every fall and grows fresh new soft green needles the following spring. This tree is a rule-breaker.
The dawn redwood has a unique history. It is present in the fossil record of North America, although it was believed to be extinct. In the 1940s living dawn redwood trees were found living in remote regions of China. The trees that we see today in Cleveland Metroparks and around Northeast Ohio are from trees brought here from China just a few decades ago.
Dawn redwoods are lovely trees. They are tall, ranging from 60 feet to possibly over 100 feet tall. They have a pleasant conical shape. In the spring and summer the soft needles are a bright green. With autumn they transition through a salmon color and then to rusty orange before falling to the ground. Dawn redwoods like to grow un-crowded with plenty of sunshine. They can make a lovely tree for your yard and are available commercially.
I hope this brief introduction to a spectacular species of tree will keep you on the lookout for one. Dawn redwoods can be seen in many of Cleveland Metroparks Reservations and on several golf courses. The Arboretum in South Chagrin Reservation is one place to stop and enjoy this lovely tree.