Characteristics of Sawara Cypress Tree (Chamaecyparis pisifera) in the Wild

Chamaecyparis pisifera
Sawara cypress or サワラ (Chamaecyparis pisifera) is a species of conifer tree native to the Japanese islands of Honshu and Kyushu.

Sawara cypress is a popular ornamental tree in parks and gardens, both in Japan and elsewhere in temperate climates including Western Europe and parts of North America.

A large number of Chamaecyparis pisifera cultivars have been selected for garden planting, including those that are stunted, have yellow or bluish leaves, and are light green. The following are some of the cultivars that have earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’ – bluish leaves, up to 8 meters high
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’ – yellow leaves, up to 12 meters high
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Plumosa Compressa’ – dwarf, grows only up to 90 cm, leaves soft moss on young plants
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Sungold’ – dense shrub, up to 3 meters high, light green leaves

This tree is grown for its wood harvest in Japan, where it is used as a material for building castles, temples, baths, and making coffins. The wood is lemon-scented and light-colored with rich straight fibers and is rot-resistant.


Characteristics of Sawara Cypress Leaf

Chamaecyparis pisifera Leaf

Mature leaves are scale-like, 1.5-2 mm long, with pointed tips (unlike Chamaecyparis obtusa leaves), green, white stomata bands at the base of each scale, arranged in pairs of opposite decussates on shoots. Juvenile leaves, found on young seedlings, are needle-shaped, 4-8 mm long, soft, and bluish-green.


Characteristics of Sawara Cypress Fruit

Chamaecyparis pisifera Fruit

Cones are spherical, 4-8 mm in diameter, with 6-10 scales arranged in opposite pairs, ripen in autumn about 7-8 months after pollination.


Characteristics of Sawara Cypress Tree

Chamaecyparis pisifera Tree
Source: Tree Library

Sawara cypress is a slow-growing conifer tree with a maximum height of 50 meters in the wild, with a trunk diameter of up to 2 meters. The bark is red-brown, vertically fissured, and with a threadlike texture.


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