Sciadopitys verticillata / Japanese umbrella-pine
Sciadopitys verticillata, as described in 1842 by (Thunberg) Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796–1866) and Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini (1790–1848), in Flora Japonica 2nd edition; is commonly known as Japanese umbrella-pine, as well as コウヤマキ (koya-maki) in the Japanese language. The English name 'umbrella-pine' refers to the whorls of leaves resembling the spokes of an umbrella; the Latin Sciadopitys is a translation of this.
Description. Japanese umbrella-pine is an evergreen coniferous species of tree which will grow to mature heights of 65 to 100 feet (20 - 35 m) tall with a trunk up to 3 feet (1 m) in diameter at breast height, growing single- or multi-trunked.
- Branching is dense and heavy with luxuriant foliage.
- Bark is thick, soft, red-brown and stringy. Leaves are of two types, scale leaves on the stems that are brown, 0.04 to 0.12 inch (1 - 3 mm), widely spaced between the nodes on long shoots, and clustered in a tight spiral pseudo-whorl.
- Photosynthetic leaves are variously interpreted as a pair of true leaves fused together, or as highly modified shoots (cladodes). They grow linearly, in pseudo-whorls of 10 to 30 at the shoot nodes and are , 2.5 to 5.5 inches (6 - 13 cm) long, 0.08 to 0.12 inch (2 - 3 mm) wide and 0.04 inch (1 mm). They are thick, heavy, fleshy, pliable, with a prominent mid-line groove on both sides; rich glossy green in color with a pale stomatal line on each side of the mid-line groove on the underside. They persist 3 to 4 years on the tree before being shed.
- Pollen cones measure 0.24 to 0.5 inch (6 - 12 mm) long, growing in dense terminal clusters 0.4 to 0.8 inch (1 - 2 cm) across.
- Seed cones are ovoid and green in color when young, ripening to dark brown 18 to 20 months after pollination. They measure 1.8 to 4 inches (4.5 - 10 cm) long and 1.4 to 2.6 inches (3.5 - 6.5 cm) wide when open. They are fragile and break up soon after seeds are released.
Distribution. This species is native to Japan — southern Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku, growing in mixed middle altitude cloud forest forests at elevations of 1,500 to 3,200 feet (500 - 1,000 m) above sea level, with high rainfall and humidity. It forms old-growth forests with Chamaecyparis obtusa. Seedlings can regenerate beneath the forest canopy, although small gaps with exposed mineral soils constitute preferred establishment sites.
Attribution from: Chris Earle, The Gymnosperm Database, ©2012
I have probably killed a higher percentage of this species than any other conifer, presumably due to my dry summer air and drip irrigation. I have three new ones (I never learn) and plan to plant them where they will receive overhead water, and more of it. Any other thoughts?
Complete success with any conifer is dependent on trying to replicate the climatic and soil conditions of its native conditions. Southern Japan is very humid and rainy in summer (semi tropical). Give it that and you're virtually guaranteed success. There is also argument that, when young, umbrella pines are very happy hanging out in the under-story, which implies that they'll tolerate quite a bit of shade.
Are you on clay or scree? This species seems to prefer cloud forest conditions on mineral-rich terroir. It's probably that it's rather committed to those conditions.
I'm on clay but I plant on mounds of amended soil with a significant amount of 1/4" lava pebbles added. However, your comment about shade is 'enlightening'. I will site these in spots where they are protected at least during the hottest part of the day. It's odd though, isn't it, that many other Japanese natives do fine here. Maybe they are from northern Japan! Thanks.
I live on the east end of Long Island in zone 5 of a deer infested area. I believe these trees are not deer resistant and would be yummy tidbits for deer in the winter months. Please advise.
if you're local deer population is facing starvation, it will eat anything that's a non-toxic plant. This plant is not toxic.
How can I propagate a broken stem of the Japanese umbrella tree?
How thick is the stem? Is it still attached to the plant? Is it woody or still green? How long is it?
I am looking for a variegated Sciadopitys verticillata but coming up empty. Mr. Maple in North Carolina lists a cultivar named 'Jannsen's Variegated' that looks very nice but it is out of stock. Does anyone have a suggestion for finding a good variegated cultivar or two? Thanks.
variegated umbrella pines are extremely scarce for a good reason. There has yet to be a proven stable clone. Talon Buchholz has 'Mr. Happy' in very limited numbers. Larry Stanley was doing one called 'Kinsai' ... he donated a few to ACS auctions over the years. If you have an associated garden center that buys from these growers, you might try to do a special order for spring.
Is Sciadopitys verticillata a good candidate for bonsai? Also, does anyone know if this plant is non-poisonous for cats? Thanks.
How much do these species grow in a year or in a 5 year period? I just bought one in a 5 gallon bucket and I see that they can grow from 65 to 100 feet tall. If this is the case for our location in the Bay Area how long will it take to get there? Thanks
Hi Rick. This species will grow from 12 to 18 inches per year for many decades, if not centuries, so just do that math. It should be 5 to 8 feet taller after five years and may take 20 to 30 years to reach 65 to 100 feet.