Japanese Umbrella Pine

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
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
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
3.23 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.21 m

The bark is reddish brown and appears in strips and slabs. Typically, the bark is quite difficult to see behind the tree's thick and bounteous leaves.
Twigs & branches
The tree's branches start fairly close to the ground, and many trees have multiple trunks. The branches are typically not too thick but are numerous.
The needles of this tree are numerous, covering the tree in a cloud of green. The photosynthetic needles grow in whorls, so they resemble the spokes at the top of an umbrella. Each whorl holds 20-30 pine needles. Its needles are usually soft, round, and waxy and almost resemble plastic. The wax allows the leaves to retain water and also protects the tree from UV radiation. The needles are a rich green color and typically grow between two and four inches long. If you look closely, you can see that each needle is actually made up of two needles that have grown together. The needles are not actually the real leaves of the tree. They are known as cladodes, small photosynthetic stems. Instead, the leaves are small and brown, resemble scales, and grow closely against the branches, just below the whorls of cladodes. Leaves typically survive for about three years.
Reproductive Structures
Japanese umbrella pines are monecious and reproduce by means of cones. Cones are analogous to flowers. Male cones produce pollen and grow up to about three centimeters. They are typically found on lower branches of the tree and grow in bundles. Female cones store eggs and act as seeds, protecting pollenated zygotes. The female cones start out as green but turn brown in their second year of life. They grow from six to eleven centimeters long and take about 18 months to mature. They are thick and bulky and develop in older trees on higher branches, with one cone per whorl.
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Spring
  • Summer (since the tree is an evergreen, its appearance is relatively consistent between seasons)
Natural range of distribution: 
The Japanese umbrella pine is native to Japan, particularly on the Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu islands. It is found in highest concentration on the Nara Peninsula of Shikoku island and the mountains northeast of Nagoya in Honshu.
Origin, history, and uses: 

The Japanese umbrella pine derives its name from the whorls of needles that grow at the end of their branches that mirror the shape of an umbrella. As the only member of the family Sciadopityaceae and genus Sciadopitys, this tree is considered a living fossil, having inhabited the Earth for an estimated 230 million years. These evergreens are rare and highly valued for their slow growth; it can take about 100 years for a sapling to fully mature.

The Japanese umbrella pine is an evergreen tree. New leaves on the tree reside on the tree for about two years. The tree's activites very much depend on the time of year, however. Flowering, along with pollen dispersal and pollination, typically takes place from April to May. Fertilization does not take place until June of the following year (13 months after pollination). The cone matures later, in September of the second year of growth.
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