Botanical nomenclature at times can seem intimidating. Some of the names seem impossible to remember let alone spell. However, to me they’re just an interesting puzzle. While most Latin names for plants are not used in every day conversation, they do help communicate more effectively when talking with other professionals in the industry. Knowing the genus is helpful. Knowing the genus and species is more specific. But knowing the genus, species and cultivar quickly narrows the playing field and takes away any ambiguity that there may have been. My nephew, third generation for our family business, often asks, “Why it is so important to know these names?” The answer is simple. You don’t want to be sold a plant that you don’t want. Liken the specifics of botanical nomenclature to that of fine wine. There are red wines and then THERE ARE RED WINES. A nice merlot from California would be good, but a bottle of 1997 Tommasi Amarone made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes would be exceptional. Point being that the more specific you are the easier it is for people to understand you. One of the harder names to remember is Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood).
Metasequoia glyptostroboides is a deciduous conifer that at times is confused with other redwoods. Sequoia sempervirens (Redwood) and Sequoiadendron giganteum (Sierra Redwood) are two completely different types. In fact all three are different from one another. Remember specifics. The Dawn Redwood is truly a giant among giants. A multi-season interest tree that is a deciduous conifer. Few others can make that claim (Ginkgo, Larix and Taxodium). Metasequoia is a conical to pyramidal tree usually with a single trunk. Exponential in its growth habit, heights of forty to fifty feet can be achieved inside twenty years. Suffice to say you should have ample room to watch it mature. Don’t plant it close to the side foundation of your home. Consider it more for a single lawn specimen. The texture of the tree is something to marvel at. Typically texture refers to the foliage of a plant. This is no exception. With fine, feathery green foliage that would be enough. However, the bark has its own texture as well. Shredded reddish brown bark darkens with age and develops a buttressed trunk. Fissures are apparent with age and long strips of bark almost seem to exfoliate. Dawn Redwood performs at its best when you have moist, well drained soils and adequate sunlight.
Getting specific with plants, hopefully, means finding what you really like. One tree that I really love is Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’. Representing all that is good with the genus ‘Gold Rush’ adds much more. Intense golden-yellow foliage emerges early in the spring and holds all summer and fall. The chartreuse feathery needles act as a harbinger of spring and turn orange-brown in the fall. “Originally known as ‘Ogon’ in Japan, Dutch horticulturist Peiter Zaignenburg obtained and renamed it ‘Gold Rush’ before it’s introduction into the European markets in 1993” (Iseli Nursery). ‘Gold Rush’ acts like a beacon of light in almost any garden. Specifically used in my backyard to disarm you and draw you closer only to put you inside a garden room. Consider mass planting soft shades of blue around it and keep it properly irrigated. Protection from hot summer sun in warmer climates is thoughtful but not necessary.
Outlining an almost perfect pyramid in a very short period of time, it would be prudent to allow ample room for such a specimen. This tree has made tremendous headway in a relatively short period of time. Thought to be extinct prior to 1941 fossil records were found and trees were discovered the same year. This native to China, eastern Szechuan and western Hupeh, has managed to represent itself well in this country with more notable specimens located at National Arboretum and Morris Arboretum.