Cryptomeria japonica (L. f.) D. Don

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Cryptomeria japonica' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-06-18.


  • Cupressus japonica L. f.

Other taxa in genus


    Term used here primarily to indicate the seed-bearing (female) structure of a conifer (‘conifer’ = ‘cone-producer’); otherwise known as a strobilus. A number of flowering plants produce cone-like seed-bearing structures including Betulaceae and Casuarinaceae.
    Narrowing gradually to a point.
    Small branch or twig usually less than a year old.
    Organism arising via vegetative or asexual reproduction.
    Term used here primarily to indicate the seed-bearing (female) structure of a conifer (‘conifer’ = ‘cone-producer’); otherwise known as a strobilus. A number of flowering plants produce cone-like seed-bearing structures including Betulaceae and Casuarinaceae.
    Bent or turned downwards.
    With an unbroken margin.
    Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).
    Folded backwards.
    (syn.) (botanical) An alternative or former name for a taxon usually considered to be invalid (often given in brackets). Synonyms arise when a taxon has been described more than once (the prior name usually being the one accepted as correct) or if an article of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature has been contravened requiring the publishing of a new name. Developments in taxonomic thought may be reflected in an increasing list of synonyms as generic or specific concepts change over time.
    (var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.
    (especially of surface of a leaf) Lower; facing away from the axis. (Cf. adaxial.)


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    Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

    Recommended citation
    'Cryptomeria japonica' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-06-18.

    An evergreen, pyramidal tree 100 to 180 ft high in Japan, with a trunk 3 to 7 ft in diameter, clothed with a thin reddish-brown bark which peels off in long, narrow strips. Leaves dagger-shaped, curved inwards towards the point, four-angled, 14 to 34 in. long, attached by their thickened bases to the branchlet on which they are closely and spirally set, all pointing forwards. Cones brown, globular, about 58 in. in diameter, composed of from twenty to thirty scales, each bearing three to five seeds.

    Native of China and Japan. Two geographical varieties are distinguished:

    var japonica. – Branches straight and spreading; the leaves short, stout, dark green. Cone-scales with long acuminate processes, bracts also long-pointed; usually five seeds per scale. This is the typical variety.

    var. sinensis Sieb. – Habit less dense than in the Japanese variety, with deflexed branches and longer, more slender terminal growths. Leaves longer and more slender, lighter green. Processes of cone-scales and tips of bracts shorter.

    C. japonica was introduced to Kew in 1842, but not in quantity until 1844, when Fortune, then in the employ of the Horticultural Society, sent seeds from Shanghai. It was from a tree raised from this seed that Siebold described var. sinensis. The first direct introduction from Japan to this country appears to have been by Maries in 1879. But in 1853 Thomas Lobb obtained seed from trees in the Buitenzorg Botanic Garden, Java, to which they had been introduced by Siebold some thirty years earlier from Japan. Trees from this source have rather stiff, short branches, more tufted and bunchy at the ends, and not so elegant as the common form. They are usually distinguished as f. lobbii (Carr.) Beissn.

    In Japan, C. japonica has been used as a forestry tree from time immemorial and must have become subdivided into numerous strains adapted to local soils and climates and differing somewhat in leaf, habit etc. Many of the artificial forests are so ancient, and have acquired such a deceptively natural aspect, that it is not certain where in Japan this species is to be regarded as genuinely native. However, it is certainly wild on Yakushima and perhaps in parts of S. Japan.

    Although one of the great timber trees of the world, and once used in Japan more than any other, it has not proved so generally fine a tree in this country as might have been expected, the best specimens being mostly in the milder and moister parts and ranging from 85 to 90 ft in height and 10 to 12 ft in girth. It likes a deep good soil, a sheltered position, and abundant rainfall. Some trees of above-average size recorded recently are: Fonthill, Wilts., 104 × 1014 ft (1963) and 115 × 812 ft (1965); Embley Park, Hants, 102 × 1112 ft (1961), a superb tree; Woodhouse, Devon, 117 × 834 ft (1957); Bicton, Devon, 110 × 1014 ft (1965); Leaton Knolls, Shrops., 111 × 634 ft (1954); Redleaf, Kent, 100 × 10 ft (1963), with a fine bole; Northerwood House, Hants, 101 × 1234 ft (1963); Leighton Hall, Montg., 103 × 1114 ft (1960); Benmore, Argyll, 104 × 1034 ft (1964); Endsleigh, Devon, 113 [x] 812 ft (1963). In Ireland there is a tree with a fine bole at Fota, Co. Cork, 102 × 1012 ft (1966) and a handsome pair at Derreen, Co. Kerry, 95 [x] 1312 and 92 [x] 1214 ft (1966).

    The following are garden varieties:

    cv. ‘Araucarioides’. – A shrub to about 7 ft high with long, thin, slender, pendulous branches, with densely set leaves. Introduced from Japan by Siebold, but similar forms may have arisen in Europe as branch-sports.

    cv. ‘Elegans’. – This, commonly known in gardens as “Cryptomeria elegans”, is a remarkable state, in which the foliage of the juvenile plant is retained permanently. The aspect of the tree is totally different from ordinary C. japonica, although the bark of the trunk has the same red-brown, peeling character. The leaves are on the whole larger, much softer, more slender, more spreading and wider apart on the branchlet than those of the type; they and the young shoots being a glaucous green in the summer, changing in autumn and winter to a bronzy red, very distinct, and remarkable among evergreens at that season. The leaves are reflexed at the tip, rather than incurved as in ordinary C. japonica. The whole tree is more bushy and dense than the type, and often falls over by its own weight; the trunks are very supple, and allow the crowns of trees 20 ft high to reach the ground without breaking. This form produces cones (rarely) which do not differ from those of the type. It bears pruning very well, and is often improved by it; if trees become top-heavy, they may be headed down far enough to become self-supporting. Introduced from Japan in 1861 by J. Gould Veitch. There is a dwarf dense-habited variety of it called ‘Elegans Nana’.

    cv. ‘Nana’. – A dwarf form with stunted branches, of rather spreading habit, reaching eventually a height of about 5 ft; branchlets numerous, crowded and unequal. Leaves shorter and narrower than in the type, more densely set on the shoots. Introduced by Fortune.

    cv. ‘Spiralis’. – A dwarf form of remarkable dense habit, the leaves being much incurved and twisted, so that the branchlet often suggests wire rope. Judging by experience at Kew, it is apt to revert to the type. Webster, in Hardy Coniferous Trees (1896) used the name C.j. spiralis for what is clearly a different form, with the leaves ‘so thickly and shortly set as to appear in a spiral manner throughout the entire length’ of the shoot.

    From the Supplement (Vol. V)

    var. sinensis – The synonym C. fortunei Otto & Dietrich should have been added, this being the correct name for the Chinese race if regarded as a distinct species, as it is by some botanists.

    specimens: Windsor Great Park, 100 × 1314 ft (1979); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, pl. 1925, 70 × 814 ft (1980); Benenden House, Kent, 95 × 10 ft and 92 × 11 ft (1979); Leonardslee, Sussex, 102 × 914 ft (1981); Northerwood House, Hants, 105 × 1314 ft (1976); Embley Park, Hants, the tree measured in 1971 has been blown down; Melbury, Dorset, 90 × 1314 ft (1980); Bicton, Devon, 110 × 1012 ft and 100 × 1034 ft (1977); Endsleigh, Devon, 120 × 1414 ft (1970), 118 × 1012 ft and two others slightly smaller (1971); Tregothnan, Cornwall, 98 × 1412 ft (1985); Trelissick, Cornwall, pl. c. 1898, 98 × 1412 ft (1979); Boconnoc, Cornwall, 92 × 1814 ft (1983); Bodnant, Gwyn., pl. 1877, 94 × 11 ft (1981); The Gliffaes Hotel, Powys, 72 × 1712 ft (1984); Monk Coniston, Lancs., 108 × 1734 ft (1983); Castle Kennedy, Wigt., 66 × 1334 ft (1979); Kilmony Castle, Argyll, 75 × 19 ft (1976); Eilean Sona, Argyll, 77 × 1414 ft (1976); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 92 × 1134 ft (1983); Shanes Castle, Co. Antrim, 77 × 1414 ft (1976); Coollattin, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 88 × 1214 ft (1975).

    cv. ‘Araucarioides’. – This is a confused name. The epithet, as used by Siebold, applied to a low-growing clone of Japanese gardens, which he introduced to Europe in about 1859. This was introduced to Britain, and according to Kent grew to about 7 ft high. However, the C. j. araucarioides of Carrière was a seed-bed variant with similar foliage but attaining the normal height.

    † cv. ‘Bandai-sugi’. – A bush of slow growth, attaining about 6 ft in height. Branchlets of two kinds: some short, closely set and reduced, others longer and with more normal foliage. The foliage is deep green, becoming bronze in winter.

    cv. ‘Elegans’. – If it succeeds in staying upright, it can attain a considerable height, but usually makes a very unshapely specimen. ‘Elegans Nana’, which eventually attains a height of about 6 ft, is more suitable for small gardens. It is also known as ‘Elegans Compacta’. It should be remarked that the name ‘Elegans Nana’ has also been used for ‘Nana’, described in the main volume, although the two are quite unlike in foliage, the true ‘Elegans Nana’ having the same foliage as ‘Elegans’.

    † cv. ‘Globosa Nana’. – A bushy form of globular habit, with normal foliage and pendulous branchlets, ultimately about 8 ft high. Described by Hornibrook in 1923.

    cv. ‘Lobbii’. – This was mentioned on page 793 under its botanical name f. lobbii, but is best regarded as a cultivar. There are still a few old trees in collections, notably the one at Boconnoc, Cornwall, mentioned in the list of specimens.

    cv. ‘Nana’. – Apart from “Elegans Nana” (see above), another horticultural synonym for this at one time, was ‘Lobbii Nana’.

    cv. ‘Vilmoriniana’. – A dense, very slow-growing globular bush, with short, slender leaves, which turn brownish in winter. It was originally introduced to the Vilmorin collection at Les Barres as “Juniperus Japonica” and was described by Hornibrook under its present name in 1923.


    A dense, bushy selection that forms a moderately-sized shrub with a tendency to upward pointing branches, from Japan prior to 1932 (Auders & Spicer 2012).