What's wrong with my Dawn Redwood?

The tree is about 30’, newly planted this spring. Seemed fine until a couple of weeks ago, now it looks like it’s dying. The leaves are starting to brown and the condition seems to be accelerating. This tree replaces a DR that was planted last fall but never grew. A pine tree originally planted by some previous owner grew fine in this spot until a couple of years ago when heavy rains and high wind toppled it.
Here are a few photos taken this morning. I’d hate to lose this beautiful tree. Help!

Where do you live? Have you been watering the tree? How much? Has it been raining recently?

I have to admit that I am a little flummoxed that you replaced a tree transplanted last fall because it hadn’t grown over the winter.

I live in the St. Louis area. It has rained quite a lot this spring, the tree is watered when it hasn’t rained for a week. The other DR was selected last summer but not planted until late fall after it had gone dormant. It never ‘woke up’ this spring. We just thought it was a fluke and it may be unrelated, but now I’m not so sure. It’s on a slope so drainage should be good but the soil is mostly clay.

I’m in NE Kansas and have one that I planted three years ago. I’ve noticed it seems to be the happiest with lots of water and some sort of mulch on the ground at least as far out as the drip line. It has grown at an astonishing rate.

A good place to ask questions about trees is here:


If it’s really a thirty-foot tree, then there may be a degree of transplanting shock (big trees can be more susceptible to this than small ones). One of those photos also looked like Japanese beetle damage (JBs love dawn redwoods, though the effects of their feeding here are on the order of minor cosmetic damage). If there is adequate water at root level (which is the important thing, not water on some arbitrary schedule), no bug attacks and the tree is failing, then I don’t have an obvious answer. An arborist opinion might be reassuring.

We have three dawn redwoods, planted as small potted plants 7-8 years ago. The tallest is probably in the range of 30 feet now. They were given supplemental water for the first few summers of their lives but get no special treatment now and have thrived (ditto the two bald cypresses in the front yard, one of which had a leader die off a couple years after I planted it - a substitute leader took over and it hasn’t skipped a beat).

Have you seen the Dawn Redwoods they have in St. Louis at the Shaw Gardens (Missouri Botanical Gardens)? If not, it’s a must-see. They were grown from seeds originally collected in China in the 1940s when the trees were rediscovered.


I’m very impressed that this thread has remained about gardening all this time.

I looked closer this morning and it looked to me like something was eating it. Indeed, it appears beetles have infested it. I had not noticed them before.
About a half dozen I captured this morning with a single swipe of plastic container here.
Researching control/eradication methods now, I don’t want to spray pesticide all over the place and the tree is too tall anyway.
I’ve also increased the water just to be sure. Pests usually pick stressed plants, right? I don’t think I’ll drown it, with it being located on a two-way slope.

Appears to be these:


Bayer makes a systemic insecticide that you pour around the trunk of the tree (diluted with water) that is listed for Japanese Beetles. You can find it sold under other brand names also. It is expensive.


Well, looks like I got that one right.

I wouldn’t try to compensate with extra watering. There’s no relationship between stress and Japanese beetle damage that I know of - they pick on anything edible regardless of how healthy it is. As I suggested earlier, JB feeding seems to be a limited cosmetic problem, and unless you want to do continual and/or expensive spraying, there’s no solution except to live with slight browning/foliar thinning. Or pick another kind of tree they’re less fond of.

Sorry for the belated followup, we had twelve house guests for the holiday and things were a bit hectic. (Seems so quiet now.) I applied the Bayer. Thanks for the suggestion,** Kansas Beekeeper**. As for MBG, we are members. I love that place.** Jackmannii**, thanks for the diagnosis, you nailed it. AndrewL, thanks for the wikilink. Now that I’m familiar with the JB I see they’ve started munching the Japanese Maple in the front yard. I believe they always have, I just didn’t pay it much attention before. It’s been treated as well. Where, O Where will they go next? I hate screwing with nature.

I go to St. Louis almost every year on a long weekend to spend time with family that lives there. My favorite part of the trip is visiting MBG. Best botanical gardens I’ve ever been to.

Your tree looks fine to me. It seems merely to be superficial damage due to beetles, as you had stated. These trees are virtually indestructible - few fungal or insect pests. They grow fast because they are adapted to growwing in floodplains and NEED to get tall fast in order to avoid being swept away or buried in the next torrent. I wouldn’t even spray, just maybe get a beetle trap. These trees grow so fast that any damage to them by insects can only do so much…I grow a ton of this species and it never ceases to amaze me how fast it grows with full sun and ample water.

Also…you CAN NOT OVERWATER DAWN REDWOODS…it is impossible. Water will only ever help this tree, so long as it has FULL SUN. They are native to floodplains, as I said before. Also, they are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 5,000 wild trees in existence. There are far more these trees in people’s backyards all over the world than there are in their native landscape. Enjoy it. They are a great species, and human beings have probably saved them from the brink of extinction…

I have to disagree with the previous poster on a couple of things.

First, Japanese beetle traps are of dubious vale in controlling these pests. If you put traps near affected plants, the consensus is that the lures attract more beetles to the area and you could wind up with more damage (traps placed a considerable distance away might be of help). And it’s possible to overwater virtually any tree (including dawn redwoods), depending on soil type and season. There are plants/trees that tolerate wet feet at certain times of the year but suffer and even are killed if their roots are inundated at other times. For a newly established tree in the sloped location described by the OP, erring a bit on the side of excess water would probably be OK in summer, unless the drainage is poor. Constantly flooding it would do no good and perhaps even harm it.

I also have a Dawn Redwood, planted last summer. It thrived but the leaves began turning brown in spots. I attributed that to planting shock. This year it had tons of new growth and in the past couple days all that new growth dried up. I’ve been watering it daily as we haven’t had rain in several weeks. It doesn’t seem to be getting better and I searched but have found no beatles. It looks a little different from the other photos I have seen, at least the drying up of the leaves. But the brown rusting is beginning again also. Not sure if I’m even putting this thread in the right spot. Can’t figure out how to post the photos, I’m new…can you tell?? :wink:

I’ve got both Dawn Redwood and Bald Cypress. Both, when they were young, would turn brown in the heat if I didn’t do two things: water and mulch. I think thick mulch is important, maybe to keep the roots cool.

A better place to ask the question, and someplace you can post photos, is at the homeowner forum at arboristsite.com

Could be an infestation of herman’s hermits. Nasty stuff.

“Watering daily” doesn’t indicate whether the tree is getting enough, or too much water. What’s important is soil moisture at root level. Have you stuck your hand in the ground to see what it’s like a few inches down?