Chamaecyparis pisifera and C. pisifera ‘Plumosa Aurea’
Plumose sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Plumosa Aurea’) is a very old cultivar that originated long ago in Japan. In 1861 this small evergreen conifer was introduced to western markets through Robert Fortune of Royal Gardens in the United Kingdom.
The foliage of C. pisifera ‘Plumosa Aurea’ is light green with yellow-colored highlights. Its feathery, airy and ferny branches are covered with part adult/part juvenile leaves. A tree that is gentle on the eye and catches the sun beautifully with its gold tipped plumes.
Genus name Chamaecyparis comes from Greek ‘chamai’ meaning ‘to the ground’ and ‘kyparissos’ for ‘cypress’. Specific epithet is from the Latin word ‘pissum’ for ‘pea’ and ‘ferre’ meaning ‘to bear’ in reference to the very small rounded cones.
The species tree, Chamaecyparis pisifera, is rare in cultivation. It is native to the islands of Honshu and Kyushu in Japan. One was planted in 1975 not too far from ‘Plumosa Aurea’ in bed 52. This tree remains small outside of Japan - never reaching its full height of 40 m/120 ft. Our specimen seems a bit small for its age. There is a label on this tree, but it is out of reach, so positive id is difficult.
The pictures of plumose sawara cypress were taken late winter in the Stanley Smith Rock Garden. The last picture is what may be the species tree, sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis psifera) planted nearby.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones