This month Tree Pittsburgh is featuring the dawn redwood as their Tree of the Month so I walked to Phipps Conservatory to see four of the living fossils. On the way I found a fifth near the Cathedral of Learning.
Endangered in the wild, the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is the only survivor of the genus Metasequoia from the age of the dinosaurs. It was thought to be extinct until a single living tree was discovered in 1941 in the village of Moudao in Hubei province, China.
The discovery happened in the nick of time. The tree would have gone extinct by now were it not for local protection and a seed-collecting expedition in 1947 that distributed seeds to ornamental gardens and arboretums around the world. Joe Stavish tells the story in Tree Pittsburgh’s video.
Across the lawn the dawn redwoods at Phipps smile to other living fossils in Pittsburgh — the ginkgos that line Schenley Drive.
(photos by Kate St. John)