Cryptomeria, also called Cryptomeria Japonica, is a very large evergreen tree that is native to Japan, but found in parts of the United States. It is commonly called "Japanese Cedar," although it is not related to the cedar family. It is a fast-growing tree that has been known to reach up to 180 feet in its native Japan. The Cryptomeria tree usually does not reach that height in the United States, but nonetheless, it makes a dramatic landscaping element.
Cryptomeria is a member of the Cypress family, and closely related to the Giant Sequoia tree. It is one of the fastest growing trees, and can grow up to 25 feet in 10 years. It varies in height, depending on the soil and climate conditions, but usually grows between 30 to 50 feet tall. It grows tallest in Japan and southeast China, particularly on the lower slopes of mountains, with higher rainfalls.
Cryptomeria is pyramid-shaped, with a loose, open canopy. The foliage consists of bluish-green needles that turn brown in the winter. The bark of the tree is brownish-red, and the trunk is incredibly large and can reach 12 feet wide. Cryptomeria has small, round cones. The branches form horizontal tiers that are arranged tightly together when the tree is small, but it loosens and droops as it matures.
Over 200 cultivars exist of the Cryptomeria Japonica, though most are not available in the U.S. The varieties include Elegans compacta and Globosa nana. Most cultivars of the Cryptomeria tree are smaller, ornamental versions that are used in landscaping in Japan.
The Cryptomeria tree does not do well in colder climates. In the U.S. it can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9. It does best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. The soil needs to be well-drained, yet remain moist the majority of the time. The Cryptomeria does well in areas of higher humidity.
The Cryptomeria is the national tree in Japan, where it is referred to as "Sugi." It is grown around temples and shrines. The Cryptomeria is highly prized as a bonsai tree in Japan. The Japanese use the wood of the Cryptomeria in furniture and construction of buildings and homes. In the United States, it is generally too large to be used in residential landscaping. It's often planted against large buildings, to soften the landscaping's overall visual effect. It is one of few conifers that will coppice; if the trunk of the Cryptomeria tree is cut, it will grow back.
- Photo Credit cedar of lebanon image by Igor Shootov from Fotolia.com
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