Temporal range: 230-0 Ma
Siebold & Zucc.
Sciadopitys verticillata, the k?yamaki 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; occasionally, a cladode will be forked and produce a bud in the 'v' of the fork. The cones are 6-11 cm long, mature in about 18 months, and have flattish scales that open to release the seeds.
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 plant was first introduced to Europe by John Gould Veitch in September 1860. It is a very attractive tree and is popular in gardens, despite its slow growth rate. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.