Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis' / Dragon's Eye Japanese red pine

Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis' is a small, flat-topped, upright tree-form of Japanese red pine with species-typical branching and long, variegated needles, each having 2 bands of yellow alternating with the typical green. When viewed from the terminal bud, the effect is said to resemble the eye of a dragon. The Dragon Eye pine is said to burn from winter sun and icy winds in the midwest, while the variegation is much less evident in plants grown in the northwest regions of the U.S.

After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 10 feet (3 m) tall and 4.5 feet (1.5 m) wide, an annual growth rate of 12 inches (30 cm) or more.

This cultivar originated in Japan centuries ago. German botanist and collector, Heinrich Mayr first described it in 1890 through observation of plants he saw in Japan. In Japan, this conifer is known by the cultivar name, 'Jano me.' Based on the rules of nomenclature, this is the name that should be used. However, since 'Oculus Draconis' is so prevalent in the nursery trade, this is unlikely to ever change. In the Latin language, "oculus draconis" literally means, "eye of the dragon."

Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis' — this young Dragon's Eye pine is growing in North Carolina. At the time the photo was taken it was 6 feet tall, and 5 years old.
Photo by Charlene Harris
Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis' Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis' — close-up of the needles shows the yellow banding for which the tree is named. When viewed from the end of a a branch the yellow banding appears as a dragon's eye.
Photo by Charlene Harris
Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis' — a closeup of foliage detail.
Photo by USNA
Pinus densiflora 'Oculis Draconis' — a photo taken in March 2003 in the Heartland Collection of Dwarf and Rare Conifers at Bickelhaupt Arboretum, Clinton, Iowa. This plant was 10 years of age when the photo was taken.
Photo by Chub Harper
Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis' growing in a private garden in Kansas, October 2006.
Photo by David Stegmaier