The genus Chamaecyparis consists of evergreen conifers in the cypress family, Cupressaceae. They are native to eastern Asia and North America and are commonly known as "False cypress" which is a bit misleading but no better name has come along, so far.  Chamaecyparis comes from the Greek khamai, meaning ground, and kuparissos for cypress.

In their natural habitat the genus is medium-sized to large, and anywhere from 60 to over 200 feet tall, with foliage in flat sprays. And there are five (or six) existing species, depending on which expert is consulted.

From an ornamental standpoint Chamaecyparis has given rise to some of the most beautiful garden evergreens in existence and, despite their close relationship to cypresses (Cupressus), they are more refined in appearance and habit, and the same could be said about them in comparison to Junipers (Juniperus) as well. And one of the best in this genus is the Sawara falsecypress, or Japanese Falsecypress, a native to central and southern Japan, specifically the islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Even though there are numerous, stunning cultivars, the species itself retains the best qualities of Chamaecyparis.

The foliage of Sawara falsecypress has a beautiful, fern-like quality. The adult leaves have pointed tips, green above, green below with a white band at the base of each scale-leaf while the juvenile leaves are softer and more bluish-green. The foliage is not only attractive but inviting to the touch. Another beautiful feature of Sawara falsecypress is the bark, which is a rich cinnamon color, vertically fissured with peeling strips  The cones are not particularly attractive being small, brown, pea-shaped.

Sawara falsecypress gets quite large in the forest, 100 feet or more in height; but in cultivation, 60 feet high by 20 feet wide is more typical. The majority of the cultivars, however, are usually found as small shrubs or small trees to 30 feet, and it is the cultivars that are most frequently encountered while the species would only be available in the most select, connoisseur nurseries.

Sawara falsecypress is the perfect focal point tree or foundation plant. And being evergreen it is a more attractive screen than many, more commonly available conifers. It will do best in full sun to partial sun and moist, well-drained, neutral to slightly acidic soils. Cool, maritime climates such as Canada's British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the United States and most of the United Kingdom are its preferred environment though it has shown tolerance for poor, dry, compacted and alkaline soils. The list of cultivars seems endless with variations in color, texture and size making a Sawara falsecypress available for almost any garden niche.

Another beautiful member of this genus is the Hinoki falsesypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa.


Sawara falsecypress

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