Metasequoia branchlet.jpg
Branchlet of M. occidentalis dating to the Eocene

Metasequoia (also known as the dawn redwood) is a redwood tree and a living fossil. It has been present from the Cretaceous onwards.


Dawn redwood.jpg
Living specimen planted in California
Trees of the only living species (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) grow up to 45 meters tall, and their leaves are typical of a conifer's (although they are deciduous). Because fossil trees were present at high latitudes, it is thought that Metasequoia's deciduous habit evolved because of the local light patterns, and not variations in temperature.[1]


The fossil leaves of Metasequoia are very similar to those of the living species. In fact, for the last 65 million years the tree has remained in a state of morphological stasis.[2]

Fossils of Metasequoia are found all across the Northern Hemisphere, even as far north as Ellesmere Island in Canada.[3]


Metasequoia cones.jpg
Metasequoia was, as a fossil, first described in 1941. Three years later, the first modern specimen was found[4], but World War II halted its description as a living tree until 1948. All wild specimens today exist in China.


  1. Chaney, Ralph W. 1948. The bearing of the living metasequoia on problems of tertiary paleobotany. Botany. 34: 503-515.
  2. LePage, Ben A., Hong Yang, Midori Matsumoto. The evolution and biogeographic history of Metasequoia. In The Geobiology and Ecology of Metasequoia, edited by Ben A. LePage, Christopher J. Williams and Hong Yang. Springer 2005. Chapter 1: 3-115.
  3. Christopher J. Williams, Arthur H. Johnson, Ben A. LePage, David R. Vann & Tatsuo Sweda (2003). "Reconstruction of Tertiary Metasequoia forests. II. Structure, biomass, and productivity of Eocene floodplain forests in the Canadian Arctic" (PDF). Paleobiology 29 (2): 271–292. doi:10.1666/0094-8373(2003)029<0271:ROTMFI>2.0.CO;2.
  4. Langlois, Gaytha A. (2005), "A conservation plant for Metasequoia in China", in LePage, Ben A.; Williams, Christopher James; Yang, Hong, The geobiology and ecology of Metasequoia, Volume 22 of Topics in geobiology, Springer, p. 369, ISBN 1402026315
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