Characteristics of Sakaki Tree “榊” (Cleyera japonica) in the Wild

Cleyera japonica
Sakaki is a flowering tree native to Japan, Taiwan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and northern India. The name Sakaki is written in kanji (榊), which combines ki (木) = “tree or wood” and kami (神) = “spirit or god” if the two words are connected it results in the meaning of “holy tree” or “tree of gods”.

The Sakaki tree is considered a sacred tree in Shinto religion, along with other trees such as Japanese Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and Tsugi (Cryptomeria japonica).

The Shinto shrine is traditionally surrounded by Shinboku (a sacred tree) consisting of Himorogi (divine fence). In Shinto ritual offerings to gods or spirits, the Sakaki branches are decorated with paper tape (shide) to make tamagushi.

 

Characteristics of Sakaki Leaf

Cleyera japonica Leaf
Source : flickr.com/翁明毅

The leaves are oval, 6-10 cm long, shiny dark green, and slightly yellowish at the bottom of the leaf.

 

Characteristics of Sakaki Flower

Cleyera japonica Flower
Source : flickr.com/潘立傑 LiChieh Pan

Cherry blossoms are small, fragrant, creamy white, and bloom in early summer.

Cleyera japonica Fruit
Source : flickr.com/翁明毅


 

Characteristics of Sakaki Tree

Cleyera japonica Tree
Source : wikimedia.org/Zhangzhugang

Sakaki trees can grow up to a height of 10 meters. The bark is reddish-brown and smooth. Sakaki is one of the common trees in the forest. But it is considered sacred to Shinto people and is one of the classic offerings at Shinto shrines.

This tree is usually planted in gardens, yards of houses, gardens, and temples.

 

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