The Koyamaki (Sciadopitys verticillata) or Japanese Umbrella-pine, is a unique conifer native to Japan. It is the only member of the family Sciadopityaceae, and a living fossil with no close surviving relatives. Its record reaches back to 230 million years. That staggering history alone has made this tree worth having for many, if only as a curiosity, and it certainly figures into many connoisseur collections. And yet, curiosity aside, it is a beautiful tree with unusual texture and growth habit.

Japanese Umbrella-Pine will grow slowly to about 25 to 40 feet tall and spreads about 15 feet. On young plants the branches stick straight out from the single trunk, giving a stiff and prickly form to the tree, but, with age, it relaxes in a more pendulous habit. The medium size and pyramidal shape make it ideal for a small residential landscape.

The needle-like leaves are dark, glossy green, thick, and come in a whorl of 20 to 30 which radiate around the stem. The effect is much like the ribs on an umbrella stripped of its fabric and gives the tree a medium to coarse texture. Another interesting feature is the bark, orange and peeling and quite attractive. And being a conifer, it bears decorative 4 inch cones, green the first year, brown the second.

A bit of shade during the hottest part of the day will help this tree in the southern part of its range. Japanese Umbrella-Pine grows in part shade or sun and needs well drained soil and good air circulation. It is intolerant of drought or pollution but is a low maintenance tree over all.

It has a great range of adaptability growing from Canada to Florida, all across the UK and in temperate Australia and New Zealand. And although it may not be easy to find, it would be well worth the effort.

As always, a tree this rare is not likely to be found in the large discount nurseries, but more likely found in the select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries.

Japanese umbrella pine


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