Tree Tuesday: Dawn of the dead

Every Tuesday, Todd Irvine of LEAF will post a stop from the Toronto Tree Tours, a collaborative project of LEAF and the Toronto Public Space Committee. The Toronto Tree Tours offers walking tours in neighbourhoods across the city as well as virtual tours on its web site. The aim is to introduce Torontonians to the individual trees in their neighbourhood while telling stories of our city’s ecological and cultural history.

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Trinity Bellwoods and neighbourhood tree tour: Stop 9

Of the many tree species in the park, these three dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) with their elegant upright form, fraying reddish bark, and fine soft needles have perhaps the most interesting family history.

This species was believed to be extinct until a few living specimens were found in a remote area of central China in 1945. Once discovered, the seeds were gathered and dispersed around the world to be planted as landscape trees, now in demand because of their attractive form and unique history.

The dawn redwood is one of only a few coniferous trees that drop their needles in the fall, making it a deciduous tree as well. These trees can grow to be very large, reaching heights of over 150 feet, with trunks 10 feet in diameter. It is yet to be seen how large they will grow in our climate as the oldest specimens have only been around for less than 70 years. Watching them inch taller each year, people will be witness to history in the making and can place bets on how high they will reach. Some of the largest examples of this species in Toronto can be found in High Park, planted on the east side of Grenadier pond.

Photograph by Liz Forsberg


  1. Very cool dawn redwoods. In my environmental biology class we watched a video called “Search for a Tropical Arctic” about how they found evidence of these trees in the high Arctic leading them to believe it once had a tropical climate.
    Thanks for these interesting finds in Toronto!

  2. I wonder if anybody remembers the chestnut trees that used to line toronto streets, they actually had edible chestnuts not the same as the horse chestnuts that grow in toronto now.In fact many of the older homes have chestnut wood trim in their houses.As the climate changes I wonder if eventually cactus will become a native plant in toronto.

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