Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Wikipedia's entry on the Koyamaki(Sciadopitys verticillata) describes it thus:

.....a unique conifer endemic to Japan. It is the sole member of the family Sciadopityaceae and genus Sciadopitys, a living fossil with no close relatives, and known in the fossil record for about 230 million years.

Let's think about what that means for a second.......
- This is so unique it doesn't only have its own genus but its own family. There is nothing else like the Koyamaki alive today.

- it's been around for 230 million years. 230 million years ago; the earth was just about to leave the middle triassic and enter the late triassic. The first dinosaurs were just starting to appear. Sequoia had not yet evolved.

So this is clearly an ancient of ancients. It's also making seed and rather spectacular cones in our arboretum....


In fact it is still doing rather well generally. As one of the 5 sacred trees of Kiso in its native Japan its use for timber was restricted to the Samurai class and hence it was looked after pretty well from a forestry perspective. The fact that the largest known specimen (from Jinqui Temple) is known to have been worshipped since 1310 is illustrative of its longevity and cultural value. Today it is, like many ancient conifers, beginning to spread back across the world as an ornamental and utility tree although its slow growth means its unlikely to be as popular as Metasequoia or Ginkgo have become. Ours is one of these happy few and I hope it lasts 700 years like its more famous relative.

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