Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sciadopitys - Japanese Umbrella Pine

Sciadopitys verticillata
The single species in this genus of conifers and is native to the mountains of Japan though before the last ice age was found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Though found in cultivation in temperate climates throughout the world; Sciadopitys - Japanese Umbrella Pine is endangered in the wild despite being on earth over 230 million years.
Very slow growing at first reaching only about 12 inches in height after 4 years; the Japanese Umbrella Pine after 6 years reaches a more typical rate of growth for a conifer reaching an average of 6 x 4 feet in height in 10 years though the record is 22 x 10 feet in 13 years ( from installed 3 foot tree ); 20 years - 30 x 10 feet; 50 years - 60 feet and is known to reach up to 3 feet in trunk diameter in 96 years.
On average or less than ideal sizes, this tree grows steadily at about 6 inches per year and on the best of sites is still never a fast growing tree. The Japanese Umbrella Pine however can be very long lived lasting for centuries and exceeding 80 feet. The largest trees ever recorded reach almost 200 feet in height and up to 10 feet in trunk diameter, reaching up to 1200 years in age. Reasonably large trees grow at Westtown near Philly, PA. Sciadopitys almost always grow neat and pyramidal and pruning is rarely necessary. Typically branches to the ground; forest grown trees grow taller and thinner.
The leaves or needles ( not spiny ) are arranged spirally in umbrella like clusters at the end of the shoots and give a "prehistoric effect". They are deep, glossy green and up to 6 inches in length. The leaves last up to 3 years.
The red brown seed cones resemble small pine cones ripening in 2 years; and male and female flowers are borne in the same tree.
The rich red brown bark peels in long, vertical strips.
Preferring moist, fertile, acidic to neutral sites; the Japanese Umbrella Pine is tolerant of drought, heat, ice, wind, and storms but not pollution, flooding and alkaline soils. It is not really tolerant of sites that are both hot and dry. It prefers warm, humid summers and is easy to grow in temperate climates with adequate rainfall. This tree is well adapted to most of the eastern U.S. Pruning is rarely needed other than possibly removing a secondary leader if the leading shoot actually does fork which is rare.
Propagation is from seed though they do need to be stratified and then chilled for a 3 month period before sowing. Hardy from zones 5 to 9 with reports of 4 on protected sites. It is reported as hardy in Wisconsin.
Though it can be very expensive; a properly plants and cared for Japanese Umbrella Pine used as a specimum plant can be truly spectacular. This is one of my favorite conifers so of course I'd have to rate this extremely beautiful conifer a 10 / 10

* photo taken on March 2004 @ McCrillis Gardens, Bethesda, MD

* photo taken on April 11 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum

* photo taken on May 8 2010 @ McCrillis Gardens, Bethesda, MD

* photo taken on June 1 2010 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on May 16 2011 in Washington, D.C.

* photo taken on Aug 25 2011 @ Scott Arboretum, Swarthmore, PA

* photos taken on Nov 27 2012 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on Aug 5 2015 in Columbia, MD

* historic archive photos


Identical except the foliage stays luxuriant deep green even in winter.

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