Chamaecyparis formosensis / Taiwan red cypress

Chamaecyparis formosensis, as described in 1901 by Ninzo Matsumura in 1901, in Botanical Magazine, Tokyo, vol. 15, is commonly known as Formosan or Taiwan red cypress; as well as "hong kuai " 紅檜 (red cypress) and 薄皮 (thin skin) in the Chinese language. The species name recognizes the island of Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, where this conifer is endemic.


Description. Taiwan red cypress is a slow-growing, but long-lived and ultimately large to very large coniferous tree growing to 175 to 200 feet (55 – 60 m) tall with a trunk up to 22 feet (7 m) in diameter.

  • Bark is red-brown in color, vertically fissured, and has a stringy texture.
  • Foliage is arranged in flat sprays. Adult leaves are scale-like, measuring 0.08 inch (1 – 3 mm) long, with pointed tips, green in color, both above and below with only an inconspicuous stomatal band at the base of each scale-leaf; they are arranged in opposite decussate pairs on the shoots. The juvenile leaves, found on young seedlings, are needle-like, measuring 0.12 to 0.32 inch (4 – 8 mm) long, with soft texture and glaucous bluish-green color.
  • Seed cones are ovoid-oblong shaped, and measure 0.24 to 0.48 inch (6 – 12 mm) long and 0.12 to 0.32 inch (4 – 8 mm) in diameter, comprised of 8 to 16 scales arranged in opposite pairs. Seed matures in autumn about 7 to 8 months after pollination.

It is most closely related to the Japanese species, Chamaecyparis pisifera (sawara cypress), which differs in smaller globose cones which are 0.12 to 0.33 inch (4–8 mm) long with 6 to 10 scales.

Distribution. This species it native to Taiwan, where it grows in the central mountains at moderate to high altitudes of 3,200 to 9,200 feet (1,000 – 2,900 m) of elevation. It is threatened by habitat loss and over-cutting for its valuable timber.

Attribution from: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

a very old specimen of Chamaecyparis formosensis in Smangus Taiwan.
Photo by Pellden via Wikipedia
Chamaecyparis formosensis — a closeup of foliage and seed cones, at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum in the south of England.
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