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What is a Hinoki Cypress?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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Hinoki cypress, scientifically known as Chamaecyparis obtusa, is a specie of ornamental tree belonging to the family Cupressaceae. This type of cypress is an evergreen conifer garden tree that is droopy in appearance. The scale-like needles of this plant appear in slightly curled, flat sprays, and the branches tend to droop at the tips, giving the tree a soft appearance. This plant is grown for its high-quality timber, which is traditionally used to build temples, palaces and traditional theaters.

Native to the central regions of Japan, the plant is locally known as Japanese cypress or simply hinoki. It is a common sight in Japanese gardens and parks as well as in other places with temperate climates, such as North America and Western Europe. This tree is also often used in bonsai, the art of growing miniature trees in containers.

The hinoki cypress grows to a height of about 50 to 75 feet (15 to 23 m) and spreads to about 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 m) wide. It has a dark red-brown bark that usually peels off in elongated and narrow strips. The obtuse, blunt-tipped green leaves have a white band at the bottom and measure roughly 0.1 to 0.2 inch (2 to 4 mm) long. Ball-shaped cones measure 0.3 to 0.5 inches (about 8 to 12 mm) in diameter and have eight to 12 scales arranged in pairs opposite each other.

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When caring for the hinoki cypress, moderate watering is required since these trees are susceptible to root rot. To avoid leaving the trees standing in water overnight, watering should be done only in the morning or early afternoon. By using soil that drains fast, it is possible to allow the soil to dry somewhat between watering. Frequent misting can also supplement watering.

To propagate the hinoki cypress, semi-ripe cuttings are typically rooted in the later part of summer, or seeds are sown outdoors during spring and planted in prepared seedbeds. Seeds normally germinate after one year of cold pre-treatment. Cuttings are more often preferred by commercial gardeners because they root quickly. The hinoki cypress thrives under full sun conditions in moist, well-drained soils that are neutral to slightly acidic.

Many bacterial and fungal diseases pose a problem for the hinoki cypress, usually infecting the tree in wet conditions. Insects such as juniper scale or bagworm are controlled using pesticides. They are sometimes difficult to control because of the nests they make out of dead foliage and debris, but these nests can be removed manually.

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