This tree not only has an English and Latin name but also a Japanese name: koyamaki. In an area in Japan known as Mt. Kiso, locals put koyamaki branches on the graves of their loved ones because they believe that these branches can lead spirits back to the land of the living. The koyamaki is a coniferous evergreen that only grows wildly in two areas of Japan. Originally, the tree populated North America, Europe, and Asia but became extinct in Europe during one of the glacial periods. It is known as a living fossil, in that it has inhabited the earth for at least 230 million years. The species has been around since the Jurassic Period, and its image serves as the crest for Prince Hisahito of Akishino, who is third in line to become emperor of Japan. The trees prefer to live in moist, acidic soils in direct sunlight, and they can grow to heights as high as 27 meters. In the United States, however, they typically do not exceed nine meters in height. Often, an individual tree can survive for over one hundred years. These trees tend to be expensive and hard to purchase, since they grow so slowly. The tree is the only member of the sciadopityaceae family.
Fadeke Muraina, Alicia Ding, Kristen Lee