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Pinus thunbergii 'Thunderhead'

(Thunderhead Japanese Black pine)

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Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ is an attractive, vigorous broadly pyramidal selection of Japanese Black pine with densely packed, long, brooding’ dark green needles and distinctive silver-white candles that are most attractive in late winter/early spring. After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 12 to 15 feet (4 – 5 m) tall and 20 feet (6 m) wide, an annual growth rate of 12 to 15 inches (30 – 37 cm). Like all cultivars in this species, specimens can be easily aesthetically pruned to control a plant’s size and form.

As is true with most Pinus thunbergii, ‘Thunderhead’ is hardy to USDA Zone 5 although the needles could burn at temperatures of -10 to -15ºF (-23 to -26ºC). Plants are especially vulnerable during times of wide and rapid temperature fluctuation. If possible, winter protection from the effects of wind chill could greatly increase your odds of successfully maintaining this plant in your garden.

This cultivar originated as a seedling selected in the mid-1980s by Angelica Nurseries, Massachusetts, USA. It was originally released under the provisional name, ‘Angelica’s Thunderhead’ and at some point the cultivar name became shortened into its present form.

7 comments to “Pinus thunbergii Thunderhead

  1. Eric Smith commented

    In only it’s 2nd year in the ground mine pushed out a 15″ leading candle! We may need to revise it’s dwarf status.

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  2. conifereditor commented

    Hey Eric . . .
    indeed ‘Thunderhead’ can be a beast, albeit a beast that is easily controlled through aesthetic pruning. I’ve revised the macro-record to correct its fictitious dwarf status. I’ll tighten up the rest of the record tomorrow.

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  3. Eric Smith commented

    I probably should have prefaced my earlier statement by mentioning that my ‘Thunderhead’ gets full south-facing sun, and plenty of supplemental water. I would bet that contributed quite a bit to it’s significant 2nd year growth spurt. What will year three have in store for me I wonder? I imagine I will take your advice and start my aesthetic pruning early. Thanks CE!

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  4. conifereditor commented

    Growing conditions aside, ‘Thunderhead’ over time, becomes one big bad pine. I debulk mine by about 2-thirds every year to keep it in line.

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  5. Sara Malone commented

    A thug. Everyone gets seduced by those incredible white candles in the dark foliage and then it gets in the ground, gets happy, and becomes a huge wooly bear. I have aesthetic pruners work on mine twice a year and they’ve taken off about 50 x more than is still on the two plants. You’d better have a lot of room…

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  6. Lisa Kessler commented

    I didn’t leave enough room when I planted mine three years ago. Can I dig it out and move it this spring? I’m in Boston.

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  7. conifereditor commented

    Hi Lisa. If you’re interested in the plant’s survival, it might be best to wait until September or October. That way it can grow roots before the stress of summer.

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