This unique conifer, in a genus by itself, is a bit of a misnomer, since it is not a pine, but takes its’ name from the Greek for umbrella and pine with whorled branches, makes a great specimen for most yards or gardens. A native of Japan, it was introduced to Europe in 1860 and the US shortly afterwards.
A slow grower typically 6-8” per year, it will attain a height of 40-60 feet and width of 20-25 feet but can achieve more than 120’ by 40’ in its native habitat in Japan. The tree is very dense and maintains a broadly pyramidal shape throughout its life. It performs best in a rich, moist but well drained soil, and is not particularly drought or pollutant resistant.
The foliage is very distinctive presenting in a whorled pattern resembling a parasol or umbrella. The rubbery needles are dark green and 3-5” long by 1/8” wide. The bark is a reddish brown and shreddy but is seldom seen until the tree is much older and some of the lower branches shade out and die or are removed.
The tree performs best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. In warmer climates the tree prefers some morning sun and protection from afternoon sun. Japanese Umbrella Pine has few insect or disease pests of any note, but heavy snows or ice can be an issue, since the thick foliage can hold a lot of weight leading to severe winter damage and bare spots from broken limbs.
If you are looking for a uncommon specimen that requires little care and stands out in the garden, provides great cover for wildlife, plus seldom outgrows its space, then Japanese Umbrella Pine may be just the tree you are looking for.