Identification of two Deciduous Conifers with all images and text taken from the book Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Europe published by Reed New Holland in 2017, author Alan Birkett and ISBN 9781921517839.
Not all conifers are evergreen. Here are two conifers that shed their leaves in autumn. The first image is of the Swamp Cypress and the second that of the Dawn Redwood. Both photographs were taken in November. The Swamp Cypress, also known as the Bald Cypress, is a conifer native to the coastal areas of southeastern USA from Delaware to Texas and the Mississippi River valley. It was introduced to Britain in1640. In the USA it is usually found in low lying, waterlogged areas but it can grow well in dry conditions. In Britain it has been planted in formal gardens and parks. The Dawn Redwood is a conifer that was only re-discovered in central China in 1941. It was known from the fossil record but was thought to be extinct. It is one of the World’s most endangered trees. It was introduced to Britain in 1948 and has since been planted in many parks and gardens in warmer regions. It grows best next to water. The Dawn Redwood, the Coast Redwood and the Giant Sequoia (sometimes called the Sierra Redwood) are all related. They are relics from a period 100 million years ago when they were widespread. They now have very restricted natural distributions – the Dawn Redwood to central China and the other two to California.
The leaves of the Swamp Cypress can be confused with those of the Dawn Redwood but the shoots and leaves, if looked at closely, are different. The leaves of the Swamp Cypress, shown in the first image, are arranged alternately along the shoot in 2 ranks. The leaves of the Dawn Redwood, shown in the second image, are opposite.
The cones of the two conifers are quite different. The first image shows cones of the Swamp Cypress in September. The second image shows an old cone of the Dawn Redwood on the ground after shedding seed.