Syn: Taxus harringtonii Knight ex J. Forbes 1839; C. drupacea Sieb. et Zucc. 1846; C. pedunculata Siebold et Zucc. 1846; C. drupacea var. pedunculata (Sieb. et Zucc.) Miq. 1867; C. drupacea var. harringtonii (Knight ex J. Forbes) Pilger 1903; C. harringtonii var. drupacea (Sieb. et Zucc.) Koidz. 1930. Two varieties, the type and nana (Nakai) Rehder 1941 (Farjon 1998). Some authors place C. koreana and C. sinensis in synonymy, and because of this, as well as its long horticultural history, it is the species of Cephalotaxus most often encountered in the literature and, in the West, in cultivation. The molecular analysis of Hao et al. (2008) showed that the clade C. harringtonia - C. koreana - C. wilsoniana is monophyletic, and that the latter two species could be treated as varieties of C. harringtonia.
The following description was applied to var. drupacea, which, as noted above, is here placed in synonymy with the type variety: "A short, up to 10 m high tree or a bush with spreading branches. Crown broadly rounded. Bark gray, peeling longitudinally in thin strips. Shoots green when young, later red-brown. Needles in 2 ranks, dense, spreading outwards and upwards, 2.5-3.5 cm long, 2-3 mm wide, distinctly acuminate, glossy, with 2 light stomata bands below. 'Fruit' ovate, about 3 cm long, on a 6-12 mm long stalk. Flowers appear in March and April, and fruit ripens in September; out of 12 chromosomes, one has a subterminal centromere, and the others median or submedian centromeres; subterminal chromosome has a satellite on its short arm (Mehra and Khoshoo, 1956)" (Vidakovic 1991). Var. nana has shorter and more slender needles than the type, the fruits are smaller, and the plants are shorter with a more upright, suckering habit; it spreads by layering (Tripp 1995).
Japan: Kyushu to Hokkaido, specifically Hondo, pref. Chiba, Mt Kiyosumi, Amatsu-machi, Awa-gun, prov. Awa; Nagasaki; Hiroshima pref. Var. nana found in E Honshu & Hokkaido, typically on seaside cliffs and in mountainous areas (Tripp 1995). Thrives in partial shade on deep, rich soils (Vidakovic 1991). Hardy to Zone 7 (cold hardiness limit between -17.7°C and -12.2°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).
In 1916, the great plant-hunter E.H. Wilson reported "The largest I saw grow in the rich forests at the foot of Higashi-Kirishima [in Kyushu] ... I saw many trees from 8 to 10 m tall with ... wide-spreading branches forming broad rounded crowns" (Tripp 1995).
The most popular Cephalotaxus in ornamental use, with several described cultivars that vary in growth habit, shade tolerance, and cold tolerance (USDA Zones 5 to 9) (Tripp 1995).
Named for the Earl of Harrington, one the the species' first European fanciers. As var. drupacea, it is listed as threatened in Vietnam by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
This was the first species of Cephalotaxus found and described by western plant hunters, and is still the one most commonly seen in cultivation (Tripp 1995).
E.H. Wilson. 1916. The conifers and taxads of Japan. Publications of the Arnold Arboretum. Cambridge: University Press.
Last Modified 2012-11-23