I See Extinct Things… in Amsterdam!
Dawn Redwood (aka Water Fir)
In 1941, a Japanese paleo-botanist found fossil specimens that were similar both to Sequoias and Bald Cypresses, but had opposite leaves instead of the expected alternating leaves. This prompted the creation of a new genus, Metasequoia. Since the last appearance of trees with those properties was a whooping 1.5 million years ago, they were assumed extinct. But, three years later, a strand of unknown trees surfaced in China. Lo and behold, they were Metasequoias.
Today the original forest still houses 5000 of the “living fossil”. In addition, the tree is planted widely. The tree in the Botanical Gardens was planted from the first seeds to arrive in Amsterdam in 1947. It is a source of national pride in China and marketed as an ornamental in the U.S.
The plantings that intrigue me the most, however, are in my new home state, North Carolina. Hidden away in the Sauraton Mountains, a Dawn Redwood preserve is in the works. In 2007, they had over 300 Dawn Redwoods flourishing on the site, some as tall as 50 feet. The Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwood Preserve hopes to open to the public in 2035 where visitors can experience what a metasequoia forest looked like 50-100 million years ago.
I think I will pencil in Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwood Preserve as my birthday hike in 2035. I’ll be turning 60. Anyone else in?
Like the Coelacanths, we encountered plenty of fossils of this tree. In 1994, a National Park and Wildlife Services officer in Australia found some peculiar trees. Upon investigation, they turned out to be trees we saw no trace of for 2 million years.
With less than 100 adult trees existing in the wild and fossils dating back to 90 million years ago, the Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest AND rarest trees.
It is considered Critically Endangered, but like the Dawn Redwood, it’s being planted extensively and can be purchased to grow in the U.S. In fact, if you get your orders in by December 15th, you can have your own Wollemi Pine by Christmas time!