Thursday, November 17, 2016

Planting a Dawn Redwood, Metasequia glyptostroboides. 11.17.16

Dawn Redwood with ball/burlap/clay removed.  11.17.16

Close up of Root Ball.  My finger touches a girdling root that will be removed.
 Today we planted a Dawn Redwood Metasequia glyptostroboides tree.  Dawn redwoods are deciduous conifers, related to Bald Cyprus and redwood trees.  They were known in the fossil record long before living trees were found in Southeast China.

I wanted to plant a tree for a memorial for my aging dogs.  Planting a tree gives me peace of mind and a focus for my thoughts.

To the best of my ability, I followed the bare-rooting method described by Linda Chalker-Scott of WSU.  I had done that before with a Gravenstein apple tree in full leaf, so far so good.  It looks radical, but the logic is sound.  This tree was in last week's shipment at Portland Nursery, balled and burlaped and placed in container with compost yesterday.  Because it was so recently dug, there has been no chance for roots to fill throughout the container.  It looks scary, seeing so few roots, but this feels like a good chance to catch it before roots grow in bad directions, setting the tree up for future girdling and early failure to thrive, or death.

As Chalker-Scott notes, fall planting is an excellent time to plant trees.  They have the remainder of the fall rainy season, plus late winter and early spring,  to add feeder roots, before starting to produce leaves next year.

When I removed the ropes and burlap, most of the clay just fell off.  I hosed off the rest.  This is the tree inside that pot, that you can't see unless you remove the burlap and wash of the roots.  It looks so drastic.  I've planted lots of fruit trees that were as drastic looking, and they did great.  So I think this is OK.
The girdling root is removed.

Holding another deformed root that crosses through others.  I removed that one too.
 Three photos illustrate the root pruning that I did.  Even though it seems this tree already has almost no roots, I removed the ones that looked like they might lead to future troubles, such as girdling.  One appeared to have auto-grafted onto another.  I removed the smaller of the two.

In the end, my root removal was very minimal.

I also followed other recommendations by Chalker-Scott.  Her two books, "The Informed Gardner" series, are the best that I have read.  In this case, I planted the tree much more shallowly than the burlap would have indicated.  It was too deep.  All  of the roots are fully buried, but the root flare is still at the soil level.

Second, I did not amend the soil with anything extraneous.  The tree has nothing between it and the native soil.  The roots are in full contact with the soil that will nourish and support the tree.  As I discussed with the Gravenstein tree, I also did not want to attract moles and voles to this tree, which I suspect to be an issue if I include compost additives in the soil.

This is the area that I cleared of blackberry brambles and some fallen Douglas Hawthorn trees, over the past couple of weeks.  The soil has been nourished by fallen blackberry leaves, rotting brambles, and tree leaves, for unknown number of years.  But even if that was not the case, I would not be adding compost or other amendments to the soil.

I did tie support to the tree, very loosely.  The intent is not to prevent swaying, but to keep it from falling over if there is excessive weather.  The main thing holding the tree in place, is the soil and root interaction.
The tree is planted about 6" shallower than the burlap was.

There were daffodils on sale at Home Depot.  I planted a wide circle outside of the planting hole area.  Those are for my benefit, but I like to think the bulbs deter underground rodents. There is no proof, that I know of, that daffodils do that.

Ning with the tree.  He's about 5'10".  Temporary deer fencing.
 Finally, I provided hardware cloth vole protection, and fencing deer protection.

This week I will also add some wood chip mulch, and check the support.  The rope is very loose, by intent.  This makes me a bit nervous, with such a tall tree - about 8 foot.  However, the trunk is thin and the top is not very heavy.  I've had posts that were heavier and not any deeper, and they stayed in place just fine.

As an after thought, I looked at those pruned roots and wondered if Metasequoia can produce shoots from roots.  I can't find any such info on the internet, but there are trees that grow from root cuttings.  So I planted those in my ginkgo seed raised bed.  If they grow, fine.  If they don't, nothing lost.

I think this will be a beautiful and healthy tree. 
Prunings saved for root cuttings experiment.


  1. The name, alone, implies a story in its past. Dawn Redwood,
    Metasequia = meta, like; sequin
    glyptostroboides =

    Taxonomic Hierarchy

    Kingdom Plantae – plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants
    Subkingdom Viridiplantae
    Infrakingdom Streptophyta – land plants
    Superdivision Embryophyta
    Division Tracheophyta – vascular plants, tracheophytes
    Subdivision Spermatophytina – spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames
    Class Pinopsida – conifers
    Subclass Pinidae
    Order Pinales – pines
    Family Cupressaceae – cypress, redwood
    Genus Metasequoia Miki ex Hu & W.C. Cheng – dawn redwood
    Species Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu & W.C. Cheng – dawn redwood

  2. Thanks for root pruning lesson. I don't think I'll plant more tree in my yard this yr. because of lack of room. But when I do, I'll keep the tips in mind.