In praise of Cryptomeria

Many years ago we were enchanted by the Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) specimens at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC.  This is a tree with more than passing resemblance to the Giant Redwood (indeed until recently they were classified in the same Family).  They are endemic to Japan and have been revered there for years (sometimes called Japanese Temple Cedars) and both the tree and the wood have played ceremonial roles in Japan.  They are also widely used for bonsai.  For the rest of the world they also constitute a very desirable evergreen addition to the landscape.  When we moved to Frederick I was concerned about the exposure and wanted to plant them in sheltered locations.  Unfortunately I now wish I had simply given them the front row in the landscape because they are splendid trees.  In particular the straight species specimen has grown strongly in a pyramidal form and is striking to look at in all seasons.  Closeup the green is very green even though when you look from a distance the tips do brown off in the wintertime.  The bark is similar to the redwoods.

Cryptomeria japonica branches

Cryptomeria japonica branches

Cryptomeria japonica

Cryptomeria japonica

My fears about the cold weather were unfounded as the two specimens we have are now over 30 years old with no ill effects from any winters.  The second specimen is one with distorted needle structure (crested) called Cryptomeria japonica ‘Cristata’.  It was quite pretty as a young tree but I find as the tree has aged it is more straggly than the pure species.  In either case these two trees are fine specimens to have on any property and maybe the closest that many people could come to owning a ‘redwood’.  

Cryptomeria japonica 'Cristata'

Cryptomeria japonica 'Cristata'

Cryptomeria japonica 'Cristata' detail

Cryptomeria japonica 'Cristata' detail

Cristata detail showing browned off crests from last year

Cristata detail showing browned off crests from last year