November 7, 2013

dawn+redwood+montsouris+park-2Most people who have looked at the LUFC logo have probably assumed that it’s meant to represent any generic Big Tree of the Pacific Northwest—but that turns out not to be the case. Like the club itself, the LUFC tree has a unique and very Oregonian history. When we at LUFC Towers were designing the logo last year, we wanted a tree with deep roots in Lane County—60 million-year-old roots, to be precise. To wit:

In the 1940s, some foresters in China discovered a stand of enormous trees that no one had ever seen before. Based off their descriptions, scientists in the U.S. came to believe that the Chinese trees were the first living organisms of the so-called metasequoia (“like a sequoia”) genus, or dawn redwoods. Paleobotanists had assumed that metasequoias were long extinct, but had known about their existence through intensive study of specimens from the John Day Fossil Beds in Central Oregon. Thomas Condon, Oregon’s first State Geologist and chair of the UO Natural Sciences Department until 1907, had been the first to discover and study these leaf fossils.

Seeds from the living specimens in China were sent back to the U.S. and planted in several locations in Oregon. A tree in the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland was the first dawn redwood outside China to bear cones in 60 million years. Three dawn redwoods have survived on the University of Oregon campus, the most well-known being the 75-foot-tall behemoth next to Cascade Hall. Meanwhile, in 2005, the metasequoia was named Oregon’s official State Fossil.

Dawn redwoods are deciduous conifers, meaning that in autumn, their leaves turn—perhaps you saw this coming—a reddish color before falling off. If you have been lucky enough to pass by the Cascade Hall dawn redwood in full color in recent weeks, take a moment, take a picture, take your LUFC scarf off and hold it high singing glory to the Reds—whatever helps you pay tribute to this fascinating piece of living local history.