Under an umbrella

Happy New Year!  Blogging has slowed down as of late.  Many reasons — busy for the holidays, that’s for sure. It’s winter.  But I’m not without inspiration.  Branches are empty of leaves.  That in itself makes for interesting study of form, branching, habit, bark patterns and color.  And of course there are the evergreens, having waited until this season for their time in the spotlight.

I’m less than satisfied with images I’ve collected.  For all the rainless days we’ve had in Portland this winter, the skies have been dark enough so that most of my shots are blah-looking.  But this is a blog, not a formal publication.  Less than perfect is OK.  And I’ve convinced myself revisiting trees later for future blogging is fine too.  So, back to it.

Last week, I was walking along NE 20th Ave in the Irvington neighborhood, and noticed a different-looking pine tree between Thompson and Brazee. (Excuse the poor photo.)


IMG_8326     IMG_8327


What?  A Japanese umbrella-pine!  This thing is huge, as tall as a utility pole. A treat in finding such a large specimen is the vivid red-orange bark, not apparent in younger trees.

Sciadopitys verticillata, umbrella-pine, so named for the spoke-like arrangement of it’s evergreen needle leaves, is not a pine.  It is the only species in the family Sciadopityaceae, native to Japan. Here’s an unusual feature I just read in The Sibley Guide to Trees, by David Allen Sibley, who includes this tree in a group of “Exotic Gymnosperms” along with Monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) and Podocarpus macrophyllus. “It lacks true leaves, the flat and flexible green “needles” are compose of stem tissue and area essentially modified green twigs (known as cladyphylls).”  Cool.  Interesting that the book also lists the hardiness zones as 5-7.

These trees are slow growing.  The ones I’ve encountered are at most head-height like the ones below at the Meek School Arboretum:


Cute cones.


Here’s a lovely front yard specimen on NE 11th between Knott and Stanton, downstage center, treated as a dwarf:


While walking the dog today, I found a “large” one on the corner of NE 27th and Stanton, about 12 feet tall.


I’m not familiar with the many cultivars of this tree.  But now that I’m paying attention I hope to spot some more around town.

Oregon State University lists the following for Japanese umbrella-pine, Sciadopitys verticillata

  • Evergreen conifer, 30 to 70 feet tall
  • Slow growing, 6 inches annually
  • Sun to part shade in rich, moist, acid soil
  • Hardy to Zone 5
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8 Responses to Under an umbrella

  1. I fall in love with that one every time I see it then I read how big it will get and make myself walk away. Maybe I can find room for it after all, even the big ones aren’t so big…

  2. norie says:

    I’ll keep my eye out for it here in Tokyo…can’t say I’ve ever seen one before! Do you know the name in Japanese??

  3. norie says:

    Hiro thinks we do, but it would take a few hours of searching through old photo data!! Sorry! I remember they were even selling small seedlings of them, but we didn’t think they’d survive the plane ride back to Tokyo…!

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