The Gymnosperm Database

scanned plant

Foliage from an ornamental, Seattle (USA) [C.J. Earle, 1999.03].


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Conservation status

Chamaecyparis pisifera

(Siebold et Zuccarini) Endlicher

Common names

Sawara [Japanese], sawara false-cypress, sawara cypress.

Taxonomic notes

Closely allied to Ch. formosensis; q.v. for differences.


Large evergreen tree with straight trunk and open, narrow, pyramidal crown. Bark reddish-brown, fibrous, shreddy, peeling in long thin strips. Juvenile leaves acicular, 6 mm long, spreading in 4 rows, blue-green, whitish beneath. Mature leaves 3 mm long, scalelike, sharp-pointed, overlapping, opposite in 4 rows, top pair flattened, side pair keeled, shiny green above, whitish-green beneath.  the scales 8-10, each scale smoothly rounded and minutely mucronate Female cones resembling a wrinkled green pea in size and shape (hence pisifera): globose, 5-8 mm in diameter, green, turning dark brown, short-stalked, usually composed of 10 scales; scales strongly depressed when dry with a tiny point in the center, the apical pair of scales fused. There are 1-2 broad-winged seeds beneath each scale (Little 1980, Frankis 1999).

Distribution and Ecology

Japan: moist soils in the humid temperate zone (Little 1980). Hardy to Zone 6 (cold hardiness limit between -23.2°C and -17.8°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree

Commonly to 21 m tall and 60 cm dbh (Little 1980).




One of the 'Five sacred Trees of Kiso' in Japan, the others being Ch. obtusa, Thuja standishii, Thujopsis dolabrata and Sciadopitys verticillata (Dallimore et al. 1967).

Widely planted as an ornamental; several numerous cultivars, with the juvenile-foliaged 'Squarrosa' and semi-juvenile 'Plumosa' and similar derivatives abundantly planted (Frankis 1999).

In Japan, an important timber species (Little 1980).




Frankis, M.P. Personal observations, email 1999.02.03.

This page co-edited with M.P. Frankis, 1999.02.

See also

Farjon (2005) provides a detailed account, with illustrations.

Last Modified 2017-12-29