One of my newest patterns features an incredible plant found in fossil localities across the world from the Cretaceous through 15 million years ago - and then it disappeared.
In fact that it was first described as a fossil, and only 7 years later was it described as a still-living tree, found in small areas of China. That's how common it was in the fossil record compared to living trees.
What caused the downfall of the Metasequoia, when it was so wide-spread before? Weirdly... not having a strong enough foot fungus.
You'd think a foot fungus was a bad thing but for trees, it's pretty important - it helps them to absorb nutrients from the soil. And some scientists think that Metasequoia simply didn't have a very effective one - or at least, not as efficient as pine trees did.
As the climate cooled, the moisture-loving Metasequoia trees had to shift their ranges - and while they'd done fine in hot environments in the past, these trees are pretty cold resistant. The big thing they need is water - and so the wet polar regions were the new Metasequoia microclimate of choice. Which would have worked fine, except that there were already trees there - pines. and that led them to compete with Pines for space.
Pines have a different type of foot fungus - ectomycorrhizal, rather than the endomycorrhizal fungi of the Metasequoia. These are more efficient in the high-latitude and high altitude locations that had the moisture Metasequoia craved.
Today, you can buy Metasequoia seedlings and seeds, though they can be a little hard to establish. And most importantly, they lose their leaves in the winter just like a Larch does - so if you do try to grow a Metasequoia, don't panic when they seem to "die" in the winter!
Of course, if you'd like to celebrate this beautiful plant you might try something easier, like buying a piece of the Metasequoia collection, a pattern of the plants leaves and cones.
LePage, Ben A., Hong Yang, and Midori Matsumoto. "The evolution and biogeographic history of Metasequoia." The geobiology and ecology of Metasequoia. Springer, Dordrecht, 2005. 3-114.