Freitag, 9. März 2012

Plant of the Day (March 9th, 2012) - Chamaecyparis obtusa agg. ("Nana Gracilis")

In the Article about my field Trip to the “Südfriedhof” in Herne, I've shown you some evergreen plants. Now, it's time to take a closer look onto some of this species. The first one is Chamaecyparis obtusa (Siebold. & Zucc.) Endl. from the Cupressaceae family. In Germany, we call this plant “Muschel-Zypresse” or “Hinoki-Zypresse” while in English, the plant is known as “hinoki cypress” or “Japanese Cypress”.

C. obtusa "nana gracilis" - habitus

It's a slender-branched tree, which can reach heights between 30 and 40 metres (98.4 to 131.2 feet). The bark is reddish to red-brown and very fibrous with until 3 metres (9.8 feet) in diameter. The scale-like leaves lie very dense on the branches. They are imbricate (overlapping) and have a dark-green colour. Another, distinctive feature of this species are the white marks at the ventral site of the leaves, which look like a fish-bone or an double-Epsilon.

The cones are spherical with eight to ten seed-scales per ripe cone. Each cone has nearly 8 – 12 centimetres in diameter. The seed is very small and winged. C. obtusa is monoicous, so there are female and male cones.

C. obtusa "nana gracilis" - ventral side of the leaves
(look at the white stripes)

C, obtusa is native to Japan, where it's called “Hinoki” or “Finuchi”. As one of the “Five holy trees of Kinose” it's a sacred plant in the Japanese culture. Wild plants can be found in the temperate, mountainous forests of Japan. However, C. obtusa is also a very popular ornamental tree (e. g. bonsai) and can be found in many gardens, parks and, as we know, cemeteries.

There are many different cultivars of C. obtusa, which can be found in Middle Europe or North America. My pictures for example, show the dwarf form “nana gracilis”, which is very common, because it grows more like a scrub and becomes not so high as the wild form. However, if you stop cutting the tree, it will start to grow as the wild form again.

The wood of this species has a high quality and is used in Japan to build shrines, temples but also for table tennis blades and masu. A masu is a small, wooden box, which is used in Japan to measure rice.

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