Welcome to the largest stand of mature Japanese Umbrella Pines (i.e. Sciadopitys Verticillata) in North America, with 340 trees ranging from nine to 31 feet tall.
The Japanese Umbrella Pine (i.e. Sciadopitys Verticillata) is not actually a pine, but is one of the world’s rarest and most unique coniferous evergreens dating back to the Triassic period, before the existence of dinosaurs. Originally comprising a variety of species and with a habitat spreading across continents, it became virtually extinct with its geographic range reduced to just two isolated areas in Japan and its diversity limited to a single species. Now considered a living fossil, it is genetic orphan being the only remaining member of the family Schiadopityaceae and of the genus Sciadopitys.
The Japanese Umbrella Pine derives its name from the whorls of needles that grow at the end of its branches and mirror the shape of an umbrella, covering the tree in a cloud of green. The needles are of the richest shade of green, soft, round, and waxy to the point that they look almost like plastic. They grow two to five inches in length in whorls of 20 to 30 needles each. They contrast elegantly against the bark, which is thick, soft, orange-brown and stringy. The photosynthetic needles, which are not actually leaves, are cladodes, or small photosynthetic stems. The leaves themselves are small, brown, resembling scales, and grow closely against the branches, just below the whorls of cladodes.
The Japanese Umbrella Pine, or Koyamaki as it is known in Japan, is found in the wild in just two areas of Japan; on the Nara Peninsula of Shikoku Island and in the mountains northeast of Nagoya in Honshu. The Koyamaki, as it is called, is one of the “five trees of Kiso” treated as sacred in Japan and its image serves as a crest for the Royal Family of Japan. Historically, its spicy scented, water-resistant wood was highly valued for making boats and its bark, in the form of oakum, for caulking. Now listed as vulnerable, it is far too rare to be used as anything other than a highly prized ornamental to be found in many of the world’s leading gardens.
Sciadopitys makes a uniquely attractive ornamental with year round luxuriant green foliage and orange-brown bark. They are extremely slow growing, which is why mature specimens are rare and expensive, as they typically achieve no more than six inches of growth a year to a maximum height of 25 to 40 feet. It can take 100 years for a sapling to fully mature. This unique, rare, and long-lived conifer serves as prominent focal point in any garden setting whose extraordinary beauty and history can’t help but draw interest.