An avenue of living fossils

After many years of planning, our Stately Avenue will be planted in February. For the avenue, which runs from the new Welcome Plaza, we have made a bold but botanically interesting choice of tree, namely the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). 

Living Metasequoia trees were discovered in China in 1941. Before that, the species was known only from fossils. Other well-known examples of ‘living fossils’ are the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis). 

In 1947, botanists collected large amounts of Metasequoia seed. These were distributed to botanical gardens all over the world, including Meise Botanic Garden. The seeds germinated exceptionally well here and several are now iconic trees in the Garden. 

The longest tree avenue in the world, in Pizhou, China, has one million dawn redwood trees. Although ours cannot compete it will still be impressive, at 48 trees.

Dawn redwoods are attractive deciduous conifers whose needles turn orange to yellow-brown in autumn. They are hardy, have some drought resistance, will tolerate air pollution and adapt easily to our local growing conditions. A traditional choice for an avenue might be the European beech (Fagus sylvatica), but in a rapidly changing climate, we must dare to think differently. With dawn redwood, Meise Botanic Garden is resolutely aiming for the future!