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This species is extremely poorly known; there are few published descriptions of it, and no material exists in the Herbarium at Kew. When first describing it, Nakai (1930) said that in most aspects it was similar to the familiar C. harringtonii. However, C. koreana forms a shrub of 1–1.5(–4) m tall, with multiple caespitose stems produced directly from the rootstock (Nakai 1930). The leaves of C. koreana are blackish green and glossy, even in winter, and measure approximately 5 × 0.3 cm. Tripp 1995. Distribution JAPAN: Hokkaido, Honshu; NORTH KOREA; SOUTH KOREA. Habitat Low to middle elevations. USDA Hardiness Zone 5. Conservation status Not evaluated. Cross-reference K68.
Cephalotaxus koreana is rare in cultivation, but can be seen in a few major collections. One is at Wakehurst Place, where it was received in 1990 as a young plant grown from material gathered in Korea by James Russell at Chollo Namdo, Wando-gun, Wando Island. Russell’s field notes (as recorded in the Kew database) describe the parent as a small tree, c.4 m tall, growing in coastal forest behind sand dunes. At the Geneva Botanical Garden it has made a small single-stemmed tree that fruits abundantly (illustrated at the Arboretum de Villardebelle website: www.pinetum.org).