Monday May 23, 2005
By Marjorie O'Harra
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
To John Gribble, a Forest Service retiree who lived in Medford, Oregon, it was a challenge.
The tree informally called the Dawn Redwood had been extinct in Oregon for millions of years. But in 1941 a living tree was discovered in a remote part of China. Gribble hoped to get some seeds, plant them in his backyard, and see if they would grow.
The tree in China was identical to the fossil known as Meta (meh-tah) sequoia (seh-KWOY-ah), the dominant conifer found in North America 35 million years ago. It was nicknamed Dawn Redwood because of its antiquity-as in "the dawn of time." Fossilized remains had been found in the California-Oregon border country near Pilot Rock.
Harvard University's arboretum had acquired two pounds of seed. Gribble wrote to them, told the director of his interest, and received a packet. In 1948, he planted the seeds. When the seedlings matured, he gave them away.
Today tall and stately Dawn Redwood trees-the first of their kind to grow here in ten million years-can be seen in a number of places in Southern Oregon. A fine example grows in Medford's Hawthorne Park; another at Hanley Farm, near Jacksonville; and another near the band shell in Ashland's Lithia Park.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Marjorie O'Harra, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
"Dawn Redwood - A Gift from the Past," Marjorie and Alan Neal, Southern Oregon Heritage Today, Vol 6, No 4, page 4.