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Chamaecyparis obtusa (Sieb. & Zucc.) Endl.

Hinoki Cypress

Modern name

Chamaecyparis obtusa (Siebold & Zucc.) Endl.


Retinispora obtusa Sieb. & Zucc.; Cupressus obtusa (Sieb. & Zucc.) K. Koch

A tree 100 to 120 ft high in Japan, with a reddish-brown trunk 3 or 4 ft in diameter. Branches horizontal or depressed, bearing the successive ramifications in two opposite horizontally spreading rows. The final leaf-bearing sub­divisions are, leaves and all, about 116 in. wide, and rather flattened. Leaves scale-like, not glandular, of two sizes, the lateral pairs the larger, about 112 in. long, somewhat boat-shaped, clasping the smaller ones above and beneath; all are blunt, thick, and fleshy, rich green above, paler beneath. The margin of every leaf beneath is defined by a thin line of glaucous bloom, which gives a variegated appearance. Cones solitary on a short branch, 13 in. diameter, brown; scales usually eight, the surface slightly hollowed towards the centre, where there is a small projection.

Native of Japan, and long cultivated there for its beauty and for its timber; introduced by John Gould Veitch in 1861. It yields the most valuable of Japanese timbers. As an ornamental tree in the British Isles it is very pleasing. It does not grow very fast, and the largest trees in the country are only about 70 to 80 ft high, but well-grown specimens are very graceful in their soft feathery branching. It likes a good moist soil, but will not thrive where there is much lime. With age and on poor soils it is apt to get thin, but this can to some extent be remedied by clipping off the ends of the shoots to induce denser branching – a process it bears very well. It is one of the favourite subjects of the Japanese for dwarfing. It is well distinguished from C. pisifera and C. lawsoniana by its blunt, round-ended leaves, and the thin glaucous line just beyond the margins beneath.

The biggest specimen so far recorded in the British Isles grows near to the National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent; this is 83 ft high on two stems, the thickest 812 ft in girth (1966). The handsomest specimen found by A. F. Mitchell also grows in Kent; this is at Benenden, and measures 70 × 612 ft (1958). Others recorded are: Bicton, Devon, 71 × 714 ft (1957); Killerton, Devon, 68 × 712 ft (1964); Westonbirt, Glos., 67 × 412 ft (1963); Petworth House, Sussex, 77 × 434 ft (1961).

Numerous varieties are in cultivation, of which the following are the most important:

cv. ‘Aurea’. – Young shoots golden yellow. A Japanese garden tree, introduced by Fortune in 1860. There is an example in the Italian Garden at Bicton, Devon, measuring 52 × 6 ft (1957).

cv. ‘Nana’. – A very slow-growing bush, ultimately 3 ft or so high and more wide; leaves lustrous blackish green; sprays concave, arranged in horizontal tiers. Introduced from Japan by Siebold.

cv. ‘Nana Gracilis’. – One of the finest medium-dwarf conifers, growing 8 to 10 ft high; foliage blackish green. A tree of great individuality, with a rugged aspect.

cv. ‘Crippsii’. – Coloured similarly to ‘Aurea’, but of a richer shade; very pleasing as a small tree of dense, very elegant habit. Raised by Cripps’ nursery, Tunbridge Wells, around the turn of the century. The largest tree recorded was planted at Tilgate, Sussex, in 1905 and now measures 50 × 414 ft (1961). There are several other examples in the south of England approaching that size, e.g. Westonbirt, Glos., 42 × 234 ft (1966), and Nymans, Sussex, 44 × 312 ft (1966).

cv. ‘Filicoides’ – Habit dense; branching very close, the ultimate divisions short, much crowded, and not so flattened as in the type. Introduced from Japan by J. G. Veitch in 1861. An old specimen at Scorrier House, Cornwall, is 47 ft high with a girth of 414 ft (1959). One at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, measures 35 × 212 ft (1964).

var. formosana (Hayata) Rehd. – A tree to 125 ft found in the northern and central part of Formosa. It differs from the Japanese type in the leaves, cones, and seeds being smaller.

cv. ‘Lycopodioides’. – Branching irregular, not strictly in two rows, the ultimate branchlets much thicker, more four-sided, and less compressed than in the type. Like many Japanese plants, it was introduced almost simultaneously (in 1861) by Fortune and by J. G. Veitch. Although often stated to be of dwarf habit, there are specimens ranging from 37 to 46 ft in height at: Westonbirt, Glos.; Scorrier House, Coldrenick, and Tregrehan, Cornwall; Bicton, Devon; Nymans, Sussex; Linton Park, Kent; and Wansfell, Ambleside, Westm.

cv. ‘Sanderi’. – A curious little shrub of rounded, dense habit, with stiff, spreading, awl-shaped leaves, 18 to 16 in. long, of a very glaucous blue tint, and borne in decussate pairs. It was put into cultivation by Sander’s nursery as “Juniperus sanderi”, but originated in Japan and does not appear to be a juniper. Masters and Beissner were both of the opinion that it is a juvenile state of C. obtusa.

cv. ‘Tetragona Aurea’. – This has the branching of ‘Filicoides’, but the branchlets are thicker, more four-sided, and scarcely compressed. Young shoots yellow. Although slow-growing it is by no means dwarf as the following measurements show: Bicton, Devon, 36 × 2 ft (1967); Sindlesham, Berks., 30 × 112 ft (1959); Nymans, Sussex, 29 × 3 ft (1966); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 27 × 112 ft (1965); Leonardslee, Sussex, 25 × 134 ft (1962). Its rate of growth is suggested by a tree in the National Pinetum, Bedgebury; planted in 1925 it measures 13 × 34 ft (1966).

Chamaecyparis obtusa

Chamaecyparis obtusa

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Bedgebury House, Kent (near but not in National Pinetum), 87 × 834 + 6 ft and 80 × 714 + 712 ft (1977); Benenden House, Kent, 74 × 714 ft (1970); Leonardslee, Sussex, Hill Garden, 74 × 434 ft (1980); Petworth House, Sussex, 75 × 514 ft (1976); Cowdray Park, in Garden, 50 × 734 ft (1982); Westonbirt, Glos., Loop, 68 × 434 ft (1975) and, in Willesley Drive, 72 × 4 ft (1981); Bicton, Devon, the tree measured in 1968 was blown down and the largest in the collection is now 82 × 514 + 5 ft (1977); Killerton, Devon, 79 × 612 ft (1983); Tregrehan, Cornwall, 50 × 634 ft (1979); Powis Castle, Powys, in the Wilderness, 72 × 5 ft (1981); Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, near Lake, 75 × 614 ft (1980).

cv. ‘Aurea’. - specimens: Cowdray Park, Sussex, 56 × 714 ft at 3 ft (1982); Chelwood Vachery, Sussex, 55 × 334 ft (1981); Bicton, Devon, 62 × 634 ft and 56 × 434 ft (1983); Margam Park, W. Glam., 56 × 312 ft (1979).

cv. ‘Crippsii’. - specimens: Bagshot Park, Surrey/Berks., 66 × 414 ft (1982); Tilgate, Sussex, 62 × 514 ft (1974); Nymans, Sussex, 66 × 414 ft (1985); Sheffield Park, Sussex, 59 × 514 ft (1982); Westonbirt, Glos., 48 × 314 ft (1976) and 46 × 314 ft (1975).

cv. ‘Filicoides’. - specimens: Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 35 × 314 ft (1979); Endsleigh, Devon, 40 × 634 ft at 1 ft (1977).

† cv. ‘Kosteri’. – Unless trained, this makes a spreading bush to about 4 ft high. It is a picturesque specimen, with bright green foliage in twisted sprays.

cv. ‘Lycopodioides’. - specimens: Nymans, Sussex, 59 × 3 ft (1985); Leonardslee, Sussex, 66 × 412 ft (1979); Endsleigh, Devon, 42 × 534 ft (1977); Caerhays Castle, Cornwall, 52 × 514 ft and 52 × 434 ft (1984); Tregrehan, Cornwall, 62 × 5 ft (1979); Tregothnan, Cornwall, 54 × 512 ft (1985); Stonefield, Argyll, 35 × 434 ft in 1931, now 52 × 812 ft (1981).

† cv. ‘Mariesii’. – Slow-growing, of conical form, with yellowish or creamy young foliage, becoming greener in winter. It makes a rather skimpy specimen unless the leading shoots are pruned. Also known as ‘Nana Albo-variegata’ and ‘Nana Argentea’.

cv. ‘Nana. – This cultivar and ‘Nana Gracilis’ appear out of alphabetical order near the top of page 598.

† cv. ‘Nana Aurea’. – A slow-growing bush, attaining 6 ft in time, its foliage in fan-shaped sprays, golden yellow in a sunny position, otherwise yellowish green. An old cultivar, introduced from Japan.

cv. ‘Nana Gracilis’. – This is inclined to produce strong-growing reversion shoots, especially if grafted, and these should be cut out. Otherwise it may grow to an uncharacteristic height – almost 30 ft at Stourhead.

† cv. ‘Nana Lutea’. – Dwarfer than ‘Nana Aurea’ and brighter gold, holding its colour well in winter. Raised by Messrs Spek of Boskoop and put into commerce in the early 1960s. A more vigorous sport from this has been named ‘Goldilocks’.

† cv. ‘Pygmaea’. – A low-growing shrub to about 2 ft high but much more in width, with bright green, fan-shaped sprays becoming bronzed in winter. Humphrey Welch remarks that it may become upright and 8 ft or so high if grafted.

cv. ‘Sanderi’. – The status of this cultivar, thought by some to be a juniper, or even a distinct genus, has long been a subject of controversy. However, analysis of its resin by L. J. Gould has shown that it is almost beyond doubt a juvenile form of Thuja orientalis (Bot. Journ. Linn. Soc., Vol. 77, pp. 217-21 (1978)).

† cv. ‘Tempelhof’. – A broad, compact bush with vividly green foliage in fan-shaped sprays, eventually 9 ft or so high. The original plant grew in the Tempelhof nurseries of Messrs Konjin near Boskoop.

cv. ‘Tetragona Aurea’. – This well-known cultivar varies considerably in size according to the vigour of the material used for propagation or, in the case of grafted plants, according to the vigour of the root-stock used. It develops its characteristic colour only when grown in a sunny position.

specimens: R.H.S. Garden, Wisley, Surrey, 38 × 534 ft at 3 ft (1982); Grayswood Hill, Haslemere, Surrey, 38 × 3 ft + 212 ft (1982); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, pl. 1925, 19 ft × 1 ft (1970); Nymans, Sussex, 31 × 314 ft (1980); Lydhurst, Sussex, 41 × 314 ft (1980); Bicton, Devon, 42 × 2 ft (1977); Tregrehan, Cornwall, 49 × 334 ft (1979); Dyffryn Gardens, near Cardiff, 33 × 214 ft (1979).



Other species in the genus