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Book review of Discovered Alive: The Story of the Chinese Redwood.
(Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

Discovered Alive: The Story of the Chinese Redwood
Reviewed by Ariadne Unst.

The beautiful dawn (or Chinese) redwood Metasequoia glyptostroboides is unusual in being a deciduous conifer. No living tree was known to scientists till its 1941 discovery by a Chinese forester. Read Discovered Alive: The Story of the Chinese Redwood by Dr. William Gittlen to learn about this remarkable tree and how it was found. Dr. Gittlen is so enthralled by his material that he made his own journey to the home of Metasequoia glyptostroboides. We are lucky to have his unique labor of love.

Recommended book on the Dawn (or Chinese) Redwood.

Buy Coast Redwood Coast Redwood: A Natural and Cultural History by Michael G. Barbour (Editor), et al. Refers to dawn redwoods as well as coast redwoods.
'Discovered Alive: The Story of the Chinese Redwood' Discovered Alive: The Story of the Chinese Redwood by William Gittlen (Pierside Pubications).
Sadly, Amazon no longer stocks this fascinating book. Request it from your local library. ISBN is 0966921747.
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"Finding a living dawn redwood is at least as remarkable
as discovering a living dinosaur."
Dr. Ralph Chaney.

In Spring, the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is one of the world's most beautiful trees. Delicate, needle-slim, pale leaves bud out and gracefully cloaked its plumb-line straight trunk and short branches.

During Summer, cones develop, in size about that of the end thumb joint on a plump hand. The cones hang in groups at the ends of branches, which they pull down.

In Autumn, the leaves of Metasequoia glyptostroboides turn orange-brown. Then the leaves and the cones fall off, revealing the straight, red-barked truck. This change can terrify tree owners, if they are unaware these conifers are deciduous. The dawn redwood has not died but is going dormant for Winter.

William Gittlen's Labor of Love for Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

In Discovered Alive: The Story of the Chinese Redwood, William Gittlen interweaves three delightful stories. He tells of the discovery by Chinese scientists of Metasequoia glyptostroboides, preceeded by the first sighting in 1941 by Chinese Forester T. Kan from National Central University. He tells of the adventure and work of two Californians, Drs. Chaney and Silverman. And he tells of his growing interest in Metasequoia glyptostroboides, culminating in his own remarkable expedition to China, to see for himself the Metasequoia glyptostroboides in its home.

The book tells a rich, informal tale of Chinese culture and hospitality, as well as of the tree. Many black and white photos in the book were taken by Dr. Gittlen on his 1998 journey and most of the other are from Dr. Chaney's expedition, half a century earlier. It is fascinating to see pictures of the local people as well as the trees, and to see children in Chaney's photos that appear as adults in Gittlen's.

The book includes helpful line drawings of Metasequoia glyptostroboides, courtesy of Dr. Hu Hsen-Hsu (the author of the first scientific report on this tree), as well as three pages of references, and a useful index.

Because Metasequoia glyptostroboides is so unusual and beautiful, because the story of its discovery is so remarkable, and because Dr. Gittlen is so enthralled by his material, we are lucky to have this labor of love.

How does Dr. Gittlin's book describe the discovery of the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)?

Until 1944, Metasequoia glyptostroboides was unknown to scientists world-wide except as a fossil. That year (following T. Kan's discovery two years earlier), the first public report of a living Metasequoia glyptostroboides was published by two Chinese scientists: Dr. Hu Hsen-Hsu (Director of the Fan Memorial Institute of Biology in Beijing) and Dr. Cheng Wangchun (of the National Central University in Nanking). This was the discovery that paleobotanist Dr. Ralph Chaney compared with the discovery of a living dinosaur.

Dr. Hu sent seeds to his colleagues at Harvard University, where he had studied previously.

In 1948, Dr. Chaney and science writer Dr. Milton Silverman made an expedition to China, to become the first Western scientists to join the Chinese in seeing Metasequoia glyptostroboides in its natural environment, deep in the Szechuan region.

Dr. Chaney returned to California with several seedlings and many seeds. Many of these were planted in America and Europe. Dr. Silverman published articles on their journey. However, Dr. Chaney never found time to write a book on his expedition, despite the hopes of the Save-The-Redwoods League.

Half a century later, Dr. Gittlen has remedied that lack. We recommend this book to all who are interested in trees and forests.

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