Dawn Redwood Forests
The dawn redwood is unique because it is a deciduous tree.
The Deciduous Tree
The dawn redwood is distinct from the other two species because, among other traits, it is a deciduous tree rather than an evergreen. This means that it sheds its leaves in the fall, is bare in winter and grows new leaves in the spring. It is also the smallest of the three redwoods—typically between 50 and 60 feet tall—but can grow up to 140 feet tall with a trunk about 6 feet in diameter.
Before it was discovered in a remote area of China, the dawn redwood was thought to be extinct. Scientists had identified fossil remains of this redwood in North America, Asia and Greenland and had concluded that it must have been extinct for millions of years. However, in 1944, a Chinese forester found an enormous dawn redwood in Sichuan province.
In 1948, researchers supported in part by Save the Redwoods League traveled to China's remote Shui-hsu Valley in south-central China. They found a few thousand trees growing in narrow canyons that opened into the wide valley. Rice and other crops were being cultivated in these lowlands; the researchers guessed that the valley was probably once covered with dawn redwood forests. They collected cuttings and seeds and sent them to Asia, Europe and North America to be grown in public and private gardens, which is where you can enjoy them today.
The dawn redwood is commonly known as "water-fir" or "water pine" in China because of its tendency to grow in low-lying areas near rivers and streams—the same conditions that support rice cultivation. To the Chinese people, this tree is second only to the panda as a conservation icon.
Today, it takes a community of caretakers—scientists, land managers, volunteers and donors—to protect all redwood forests. With your help, we know that these giants will inspire the imagination of countless generations to come. Donate today
Plants in the Redwood Understory: Liverwort
Lunularia cruciata is a liverwort, one of the world's small plants. A relative of mosses, this plant hugs the ground as it grows horizontally on moist soil. This liverwort gets its name from the moon-shaped cups on the top of the plant (Lunularia for luna, or moon). These small cups (called gemmae), contain baby liverworts that get bounced out by raindrops and ricocheted to a new patch of ground to hopefully start growing.
Explore more redwood resources on our Redwoods Learning Center.