The Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) get its common name from the long needles that radiate from nodes outward like ribs of an umbrella. The tree is native to Japan where fossil evidence dates it back 230 million years. It was probably introduced to the United States at the end of the 19th century. The female cones have chunky scales. Despite its name, the tree is neither a spruce nor a pine and is classified these days as a unique conifer. Young trees have a pyramidal shape while mature trees look more like white pine trees. The genus name Sciadopitys is derived from the Greek skidos – whorl, and pitys – a fir tree. Listed as a vulnerable species due to harvesting for its water-resistant wood used for boat making. The Japanese umbrella pine is a popular garden plant in Japan. Though a slow grower, it is hardy and grows well in cold climates.
Common name: Japanese Umbrella-Pine; Parasol Pine.
Scientific Name (order and family): Sciadopitys verticillata Siebold & Zuccarini (Sciadopityaceae, Cupressales)
Species Origin: Southern Japan (Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku) in mid-elevation cloud forests.
New Jersey Status: USDA not listed
Habit: Small to medium tree 25 – 40’ tall. Often multi-trunked.
Trunk/Stem: Bark reddish, brown and fibrous.
Leaves: Evergreen, dark green and conical with foliage to ground. Two kind of leaves.. Some small and scale-like growing on the shoot; the shoot bears at its end and axils whorls of 20 – 30 linear flat leaves each 2 – 5” long x 1/8” wide. These leaves are furrowed on each side more deeply beneath with a glaucous green groove. [In a second descripton: bisexual evergreen trees with whorls of brown scale which are the actual leaves from which green needle like cladodes (short stems) emerge. The cladodes resemble the needles (the leaves) of pines BUT are composed of stem tissue with two vascular bundles.]
Fruits and seeds: Male cones are formed in dense terminal clusters. Cone 3” long, oval flexible scales sitting upright on stalk. Female cones are subsessile, ovoid and disintegrate soon after the seeds are released. Scales are green, thin and flat with 5 -9 seeds per scale. Seeds are flattened and ovoid with a narrow wing along each side. They are orange brown with two cotyledons.