Gymnosperms (Seed Producing Plants: Conifers, Cycads, Ginkgo) • Earth.com

Kōyamaki

(Sciadopitys verticillata)

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Description

Sciadopitys verticillata, the kōyamaki or Japanese umbrella-pine, is 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 present in the fossil record for about 230 million years. It is an evergreen tree that can grow 15–27 m tall, with brown main shoots bearing whorls of 7–12 cm long flexible green cladodes that look like, and perform the function of, leaves, but are actually composed of stem tissues. The cones are 6–11 cm long, mature in about 18 months, with flattish scales that open to release the seeds. Molecular evidence indicates that Sciadopityaceae is the sister group to a clade comprised of Taxaceae and Cupressaceae, and has an extremely ancient divergence, having diverged from the rest of the conifers during the early-mid Permian; this would also make it a survivor of the Permian-Triassic extinction event. There is inconsistent evidence regarding the plant family which produced Baltic amber. Both macrofossil and microfossil evidence suggest a Pinus relative, whereas chemical and infrared microspectroscopy evidence suggest relatives of either Agathis or Sciadopitys. The genus name Sciadopitys comes from Greek sciádos (meaning 'umbrella' and pitys meaning 'pine'. The species name verticillata is a descriptive epithet meaning 'whorled'. The plant was first introduced to the UK by John Gould Veitch in September 1860. Considered attractive, this tree is popular in gardens, despite its slow growth rate. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. A stylized representation of the tree (known in Japanese as kōyamaki) was chosen as the Japanese Imperial crest for the Akishino branch of the Imperial Family. Sciadopitys verticillata, the kōyamaki or Japanese umbrella-pine, is 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 present in the fossil record for about 230 million years. It is an evergreen tree that can grow 15–27 m tall, with brown main shoots bearing whorls of 7–12 cm long flexible green cladodes that look like, and perform the function of, leaves, but are actually composed of stem tissues. The cones are 6–11 cm long, mature in about 18 months, with flattish scales that open to release the seeds.

Taxonomic tree:

Domain:
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum:
Class: Pinopsida
Order:Pinales
Family:Sciadopityaceae
Genus:Sciadopitys
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