One Unknown Number Identified
Fort Bragg, California
This was all the information I had on my chosen package of seed. Included at the bottom of this list of 23 seed choices was the following sentence: "Samples of these seeds will be grown for identification and published when available."
Background: My home and nursery is in Fort Bragg, California, surrounded by beautiful tall redwood trees. This is the oldest rhododendron nursery still in operation in the state and equipped with the original greenhouse made of glass. Due to age, a few panes are broken and allow occasional bits of twigs and needles to fall through.
It was quite some time before anything sprouted in this seed lot #1717. Imagine the disappointment when two redwoods appeared. The big tree behind the greenhouse has done it again - dropped seeds through the broken glass. Oh, well, little trees make nice little gifts to customers from out of town.
Spring went. Summer came and went. Winter came. "Oh, oh, they died. I knew those redwoods couldn't last in that shallow moss. I'll set them aside. I'm too busy to throw them out now." The days got longer.
Spring. Bright green algae spots were showing on my dead redwoods. Then came the Dawn! Those weren't rhododendron seeds from China! Those were Dawn Redwoods, Metasequoia glyptostroboides ! They are the only deciduous redwoods on earth! So gorgeous in autumn with their copper foliage; so beautiful in spring with their delicate "new-green" needles; and so delightful in summer with their feathery foliage! Even the trunk of the tree has a curious twisting or circular motion as it grows upward. Wow!!! Now you've got to hear the rest of this story.
In 1948, John Druecker, the original owner of this nursery was given seven of the first Dawn Redwood seeds out of China. Dr. Chaney, the donator, was with the University of California Botanical Garden where the seeds were received in this country. All seven seeds grew and John knows where five of these trees are still growing. One is right here in my own back yard and has started hundreds of new trees from cuttings for me.
How fortunate to have such a beautiful big specimen and now to have the beginning of a new generation from seed. Since my tree has never produced cones, hopefully one of my new trees will. That may be the easiest or best way to propagate.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if, some day, Fort Bragg could have its own little forest of Dawn Redwoods and supply seed to everyone? And oh, how I pray that the other recipients of 1986's seed lot #1717 didn't have time to throw away their dead redwoods.
Mae Lauer, a member of Noyo Chapter, operates Lauer's Rhododendrons in Fort Bragg, California.