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Thujopsis dolabrata (L. f.) Sieb. & Zucc.

Modern name

Thujopsis dolabrata (L.f.) Siebold & Zucc.


Thuja dolabrata L.f.

A tree up to 40 or 50 ft high, or a shrub of pyramidal form; branchlets arranged in opposite rows (distichous), the ultimate subdivisions much flattened, about 14 in. wide, dark glossy green above, with conspicuous glaucous patches beneath. Leaves hard and rigid, borne in four ranks; those of the lateral ranks strongly keeled, 16 to 14 in. long, incurved at the point, their edges overlapping the leaves of the middle ranks, which are appressed and rounded at the apex. Cones 12 to 34 in. long, subglobose; the six or eight scales thick, woody, ending in a horn-shaped boss; seeds winged.

Native of Japan. The typical race extends from the southern islands to central Honshu, but the finest stands are on two peninsulas at the northernmost end of Honshu. These belong to the northern race var. hondae Makino, which extends into southern Hokkaido and has as its distinguishing characters : leaves smaller, foliage denser, cones more globose, cone-scales with an indistinct mucro. The first introduction of T. dolabrata was in 1853, when Thomas Lobb sent a plant to Messrs Veitch of Exeter from the Buitenzorg Botanic Garden in Java, which soon died, leaving no issue. Later in the 1850s Captain Fortescue brought a plant from Japan which was grown at Castle Hill, Devon, and propagated by cuttings. But the first commercial introductions were by John Gould Veitch and Robert Fortune in 1860-1. The former collected seed of what must have been var. hondae during his short stay at Hakodate, the southern port of Hokkaido, in autumn 1860; Fortune’s sending (to Standish’s nursery) was of seed collected in a cemetery near Tokyo.

Seen at its best, this is a striking and beautiful conifer, needing a sheltered position and tolerant of shade. Even in favoured localities it grows slowly and when young is very dense in habit at the base, but as it increases in height the upper growth is apt to become thin and attenuated. Some plants eventually become trees with a single stem, but many of the largest specimens recorded are many-stemmed from the base. Examples from Cornwall are: Scorrier House, pl. 1868, 52 × 5 ft (1965); Lamellen, St Tudy, 53 × 534 ft (1963); Pencarrow, 66 × 3 ft + 234 ft (1975); Tregrehan, 66 × 734 ft, short bole (1971); Boconnoc, 67 × 614 ft (1970); Penjerrick, 69 ft, many-stemmed (1965). Others are: Bicton, Devon, 57 ft, many-stemmed (1968); Killerton, Devon, 57 ft and almost 50 ft in spread, with seventeen stems; Melbury, Dorset, 67 × 414 ft (main stem) (1971); Lydhurst, Warninglid, Sussex, 59 × 314 ft (1965); Sheffield Park, Sussex, 51 × 314 ft (1968); Stonefield, Argyll, two trees, the taller 56 × 5 ft (1969); Castlewellan, Co. Down, 59 ft, many-stemmed (1976).

cv. ‘Laetevirens’ (‘Nana’). – A dwarf shrub to about 3 ft high, with finer, lighter green foliage than normal. Introduced by J. G. Veitch in 1860-1 (T. laetevirens Lindl.; T. dolabrata var. laetevirens (Lindl.) Masters; T. d. f. nana (Endl.) Beissn., in part.

cv. ‘Variegata’. – Leaf-sprays splashed with white. Introduced by Fortune in 1861. A valueless variety, soon reverting almost wholly to the normal green.

Imported seed of T. dolabrata does not germinate well, but cuttings strike readily and are said to be the usual means of propagation in Japan, even for forest trees.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

Specimens in Cornwall: Scorrier House, pl. 1868, 56 × 512 ft, dying (1979); Lamellen, blown down 1976; Tregrehan, 70 × 812 ft (1979); Boconnoc, the 75 ft tree not seen since, another 66 × 412 ft (1983); Penjerrick, 74 × 412 ft + 334 ft and other stems (1979); Trebah, 59 × 512 ft and 62 × 414 ft (1984); Glendurgan, 72 × 514 ft (1984); Tregothnan, 42 × 514 ft (1985); Trebartha, 54 × 414 ft (1981).

Others are: Lydhurst, Warninglid, Sussex, 60 ft high, bush form and 50 × 334 ft (1980); Sheffield Park, Sussex, 58 × 314 ft (1982); Melbury, Dorset, all specimens dead or scorched; Abbotsbury, Dorset, 60 × 334 ft, bole 20 ft (1980); Bicton, Devon, only one left, 58 × 212 ft (1983); Castlehill, Devon, 62 × 434 ft (1983); Killerton, Devon, the tree mentioned has been blown down; Trawsgoed, Dyfed, a vast many-stemmed bush 66 ft high (1983); Stonefield, Argyll, taller of two, 66 × 534 ft (1981); Benmore, Argyll, 66 × 514 ft (1983); Leckmelm, W. Ross, 66 × 334 + 312 + 312 ft (1983); Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 72 × 412 + 314 ft (1980); Glencormac, Co. Wicklow, 65 × 434 ft (1980).



Other species in the genus

[No species article available]