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A tree up to 70 ft high, of very characteristic habit, the trunk being erect and clothed with smooth brown bark, the branches horizontal or ascending, but furnished with vertically pendulous, slender sprays. The branchlets are in the same plane in two opposite ranks, with the final subdivisions much flattened, thin, and about 1⁄20 in. wide. Leaves uniformly green, in four rows, 1⁄12 to 1⁄8 in. long, the terminal part of each triangular and tapered to a fine point; the lateral leaves have the points free and rather spreading, the upper and lower ones closely flattened. Cones 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. across, globose, borne on slender stalks 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long; scales with a small boss in the centre.
Native of Central China, and now spread widely over that country in cultivation. First noticed by the members of Lord Macartney’s mission to China in 1793, but introduced by Fortune in 1849. It is too tender for any but the mildest parts of the British Isles, and young trees have been killed time after time at Kew. It was grown in winter gardens for its elegant habit, and produces cones at an early age. The curiously dissimilar foliage of seedlings always attracts attention, the leaves in that state being in whorls of three or four, linear or awl-shaped, and 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. long; pale soft green. In its flat adult branchlets it bears some resemblance to Chamaecyparis, also in its small cones, and few seeds (three to five) to each scale. There are examples of 15 to 35 ft in height at: Killerton, Devon; the Bath Botanic Garden: and in Eire at Powerscourt; Mount Usher; and Kilmacurragh.
This species should perhaps be transferred to Chamaecyparis, in which it becomes Chamaecyparis funebris (Endl.) Franco.
specimens: Killerton, Devon, 33 × 11⁄2 ft (1980); Stonefield, Argyll, 26 × 21⁄4 ft (1981); Kilmacurragh, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 49 × 31⁄4 + 3 ft (1980).