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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, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 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 5⁄8 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 × 101⁄4 ft (1963) and 115 × 81⁄2 ft (1965); Embley Park, Hants, 102 × 111⁄2 ft (1961), a superb tree; Woodhouse, Devon, 117 × 83⁄4 ft (1957); Bicton, Devon, 110 × 101⁄4 ft (1965); Leaton Knolls, Shrops., 111 × 63⁄4 ft (1954); Redleaf, Kent, 100 × 10 ft (1963), with a fine bole; Northerwood House, Hants, 101 × 123⁄4 ft (1963); Leighton Hall, Montg., 103 × 111⁄4 ft (1960); Benmore, Argyll, 104 × 103⁄4 ft (1964); Endsleigh, Devon, 113 [x] 81⁄2 ft (1963). In Ireland there is a tree with a fine bole at Fota, Co. Cork, 102 × 101⁄2 ft (1966) and a handsome pair at Derreen, Co. Kerry, 95 [x] 131⁄2 and 92 [x] 121⁄4 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.
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 × 131⁄4 ft (1979); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, pl. 1925, 70 × 81⁄4 ft (1980); Benenden House, Kent, 95 × 10 ft and 92 × 11 ft (1979); Leonardslee, Sussex, 102 × 91⁄4 ft (1981); Northerwood House, Hants, 105 × 131⁄4 ft (1976); Embley Park, Hants, the tree measured in 1971 has been blown down; Melbury, Dorset, 90 × 131⁄4 ft (1980); Bicton, Devon, 110 × 101⁄2 ft and 100 × 103⁄4 ft (1977); Endsleigh, Devon, 120 × 141⁄4 ft (1970), 118 × 101⁄2 ft and two others slightly smaller (1971); Tregothnan, Cornwall, 98 × 141⁄2 ft (1985); Trelissick, Cornwall, pl. c. 1898, 98 × 141⁄2 ft (1979); Boconnoc, Cornwall, 92 × 181⁄4 ft (1983); Bodnant, Gwyn., pl. 1877, 94 × 11 ft (1981); The Gliffaes Hotel, Powys, 72 × 171⁄2 ft (1984); Monk Coniston, Lancs., 108 × 173⁄4 ft (1983); Castle Kennedy, Wigt., 66 × 133⁄4 ft (1979); Kilmony Castle, Argyll, 75 × 19 ft (1976); Eilean Sona, Argyll, 77 × 141⁄4 ft (1976); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 92 × 113⁄4 ft (1983); Shanes Castle, Co. Antrim, 77 × 141⁄4 ft (1976); Coollattin, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 88 × 121⁄4 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.