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A tree up to 100 ft in Japan, with a dull brown bark divided vertically into thin, narrow plates; shoots glabrous, yellowish or reddish at first, later pale grey; buds narrow-ovate, with chestnut-brown, non-resinous scales. Leaves of soft texture, linear, 3⁄4 to 1 in. long, rounded and notched at the apex, upper side light green, rather deeply grooved along the midrib, lower side with a band of stomata on each side of the prominent midrib. Cones ovoid, 11⁄2 to 13⁄4 in. long, with fifteen to twenty broad scales, which are rounded at the apex; bracts exserted, recurved, the middle lobe narrow and tapered to an acute point, the lateral lobes blunt-ended and laciniate.
A native of southern Japan, where it is confined to a few stands in Kii, Yamata, and Tosa provinces; it was discovered by Shirasawa in 1893 and introduced to Britain by Clinton-Baker in 1910 (but a few years earlier to Germany). It is of no ornamental value, but is of interest as the only pseudotsuga from E. Asia that has become established in cultivation in Britain, though even it is rare. There are examples 30 ft or slightly higher in the National Pinetum at Bedgebury, Kent; and at Wakehurst Place, Leonardslee, and Borde Hill, Sussex. The largest specimen recorded in the British Isles grows at Powerscourt in Eire; this measures 60 × 6 ft (1966).
The other Asiatic species resemble P. japonica in having the leaves bifid at the apex, but their shoots are downy and the cones larger.
specimens: Borde Hill, Sussex, 42 × 13⁄4 ft (1984); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, pl. 1932, 21 × 11⁄2 ft (1983); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 33 × 21⁄4 ft (1979).
The tree at Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, mentioned as the largest known, is not this species but P. menziesii.