Our Tall Twins

If a diner at Kendal hears “What’s that?” the object of curiosity, if not the soup, might be the spectacular Metasequoia glyptostroboides just outside the window.

For a ground level look at that tree and its twin, leave Kendal Center from the lower level. The fluted, buttressed trunk of each is massive—a feature best enjoyed in December, as we can look up into its dramatic architecture. Note the stringy bark and that lower branches are at risk of being absorbed by the tree’s ever-expanding girth. Indeed, when a young specimen has two trunks, the smaller one is eventually absorbed, repurposed as a branch.

In December we can also appreciate the Dawn Redwood’s unusual reproductive features. Half-inch pollen-producing male cones form high in the tree each spring. Three-quarter inch female cones are visible by December, but only along the lower branchlets of these monoecious (hermaphrodite) trees. Gravity does the rest; no partner needed.

Our Metasequoia likely arrived here with other trees purchased by Kendal’s thrifty founders from area nurseries that were going out of business. Many of those trees were planted in pairs and trios. Elsewhere on our campus you’ll find a second pair and a trio. Like us, they benefit from continuing care: regular check-ups by Adopt-A-Tree volunteers, insect removal by woodpeckers, surgery by Casey, and tender-loving care by passers-by who stroke their soft needles.

The champion Metasequoia in Pennsylvania (a status based on height, girth, and spread) is at the Morris Arboretum. The next largest four (one of them 139.5 feet tall) stand at Longwood Gardens, along with 63 of Pennsylvania’s champion trees. To see Delaware’s champion Metasequoia, visit Winterthur. Although larger in circumference, it’s a mere 104 feet tall.

Your arboretum committee will introduce you to another tree or tree happening each month in 2016. Meanwhile, consider helping us by determining the height(s) of one or of all seven of Kendal’s dawn redwoods.


By Harry Hammond & Judy Czeiner, Photographer