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Sciadopitys verticillata

Phonetic Spelling
sigh-uh-DOP-ih-tiss ver-ti-si-LAH-tuh
Description

The umbrella pine is a slow-growing evergreen conifer tree with a variable growth habit and a conical crown. It may reach a height of 30 to 70 feet in cultivation and over 100 feet in its native habitat.  It provides dense shade when young, and its form is spire-like too broadly pyramidal. As it ages, the form is straight with horizontal branches in whorls. The branches become pendulous and spread.  Its texture is medium to coarse and appears stiff and twiggy. This tree is the only member of the Sciadopityaceae family.

The umbrella pine or Japanese umbrella pine is native to Japan. They are typically found in forests at elevations of 1500 to 3200 feet and areas with high rainfall and high humidity.

The genus name, Sciadopitys, is Greek in origin. Skias or skiados means "umbrella," and pitys is translated as "fir" or "pine." The epithet, verticillata, means "whorled" and references the needles of the tree. The common name, umbrella pine, refers to the whorls of leaves that resemble the spokes in an umbrella.

It prefers rich moist, well-drained soil and an open location.  The tree is best grown in slightly acidic soils and full sun. It will grow best in cool summer climates and appreciates shade in the afternoon during very hot summers.  It is best to have this tree sheltered from harsh winter winds. It is not drought or air pollution tolerant. 

The attractive bark is reddish-brown, exfoliates in strips, and is often hidden by foliage. The tree produces both dark green scale-like needles and linear needles. The umbrella-like whorls of needles grow at the ends of the branchlets and branches. Each whorl has about 20 to 30 soft, flat, dark green needles. The fruit is an oval, erect cone that is green the first year and ripens to brown the second year. It has inconspicuous male and female blooms.

The umbrella pine is a much-underused tree in the landscape. Consider this tree as a specimen in your home landscape in rock gardens, foundation plantings, or containers. It may also be used for bonsai.

Season of Interest:

Bark:  Year-round        Foliage:  Year-round        Fruits: Fall  

Quick ID Hints:

  • evergreen, conifer, conical crown, up to 25 to 30 feet tall, and 15 to 20 feet wide in cultivation
  • reddish-brown bark that exfoliates in strips
  • twig stout, initially green with small-scale-like needles that eventually turn reddish brown
  • shiny, dark green, three to five-inch, flat needles
  • the needles appear in dense whorls of 20 to 30 needles at the ends of the branches
  • inconspicuous reddish to yellow-green male flowers, and light green female flowers
  • fruits are reddish-brown, oval cones about 2 to 4 inches long with thick scales.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The umbrella pine has no serious problems with insects or diseases.

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Mitsch Select'
  • 'Pendula'
    pendulous branches
  • 'Variegata'
    leaves green and half yellow
  • 'Wintergreen'
    foliage is bright green through the winter
'Mitsch Select', 'Pendula', 'Variegata', 'Wintergreen'
Tags:
#evergreen#interesting bark#specimen#slow growing#pyramidal#conifer#low maintenance#interesting leaves#needled evergreen#foundation planting#rock garden#showy cones#Asian garden#evergreen tree#recreational areas#meadows#container plant#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Mitsch Select'
  • 'Pendula'
    pendulous branches
  • 'Variegata'
    leaves green and half yellow
  • 'Wintergreen'
    foliage is bright green through the winter
'Mitsch Select', 'Pendula', 'Variegata', 'Wintergreen'
Tags:
#evergreen#interesting bark#specimen#slow growing#pyramidal#conifer#low maintenance#interesting leaves#needled evergreen#foundation planting#rock garden#showy cones#Asian garden#evergreen tree#recreational areas#meadows#container plant#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sciadopitys
    Species:
    verticillata
    Family:
    Sciadopityaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The wood is used for building boats. The sap has been found to have antibacterial properties.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Japan
    Dimensions:
    Height: 25 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Broad
    Horizontal
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The male flowers are pollen cones and are seen at the tips of the branches in dense groups. They measure 0.25 to 0.5 inches long and 0.4 to 0.8 inches wide. The female cones are upright seed cones that are solitary, oblong to ovate, and measure 2 to 4 inches long and 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide. They are initially green and turn reddish-brown as they mature. The cones ripen 18 to 20 months after pollination.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    There are male and female flowers. The male is reddish to yellowish-green, 1/3 inch long, and appears in dense terminal clusters. The female bloom is light green, oval, and 1/3 inch long. They are seen in May and June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Type:
    Needles
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    This tree produces two types of needles. Some of the needles are scale-like, small, and measure about 0.12 inches long. The others are linear needles that appear thick, long, flat, fleshy, and measure 3 to 5 inches in length and about 0.25 inches wide. They are glossy, dark green on the upper surface, and they have two white bands on the lower surface. The leaves are crowded at the tips. Each node has a group of needles that are whorled or in the shape of an umbrella. Each whorl consists of 20 to 30 needles that radiate around the stem.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Bark Description:
    The bark is reddish-brown, thick, soft, and stringy. It exfoliates in plates or strips.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The stems are stout and green with small-scale-like leaves that later turn reddish-brown.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Meadow
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Foundation Planting
    Specimen