Sciadopitys verticillata, or Japanese Umbrella-pine, is a unique conifer endemic to Japan where it is called Koyamaki. It is the sole member of the family Sciadopityaceae and genus Sciadopitys, a living fossil with no close relatives, and known in the fossil record for about 230 million years. Its genus name comes from the Greek prefix sciado– meaning “shadow” and pitys, meaning “pine”; the specific epithet means “with whorls”.
It is an evergreen coniferous tree that can grow 50 to 85 feet (15 – 27 m) tall, with brown main shoots bearing whorls of 3 to 5 inch (7 – 12 cm) long flexible green cladodes that look like, and perform the function of, leaves but are actually composed of stem tissues; occasionally, a cladode will be forked and produce a bud in the ‘v’ of the fork. The seed cones are 2.5 to 4.5 inches (6 – 11 cm) long, mature in about 18 months, and have flattish scales that open to release the seeds.
It is a very attractive tree and is popular in gardens, despite its slow growth rate and high cost.
Koyamaki was chosen as the Japanese Imperial crest for Prince Hisahito of Akishino, currently third in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The plant was first introduced to Europe by John Gould Veitch in September 1860.
Infrared microspectroscopy has identified conifers of the family Sciadopityaceae as the principal source of Baltic amber rather than as previously thought members of the families Araucariaceae and Pinaceae.Attributed from: Wikipedia