Sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera sp.)

Near the NW corner of Old Main, adjacent to tree GK. Map

Native to Japan but widely planted in North America and Europe since the mid-19th century, this middling large conifer is widely mistaken by tree novices for abberant specimens of western redcedar (Thuja plicata). It has similar reddish bark and equally similar spray-like, closely appressed foliage, and it even prospers under the same climatic conditions. However, a close examination of its cones and the fine structure of its foliage should set you right. (A good tree book is strongly recommended).

Cultivars of Sawara cypress are plentiful. One particularly important difference involves the structure of the foliage. Three common types are frequently encountered: two (plumosa and filifera) are shown in the lower photograph. The third common foliage type is called squarrosa, illustrated by a tree located near the paper birch (PB), in an indentation in the wall of Carver gym. The true budding tree aficianado will visit all three - once again, a good tree book is recommended.

The largest specimens of this species exist, naturally enough, in Japan, where they can reach 150 ft. in height. Most examples introduced into North American and European botanical gardens are cultivars (e.g., the three mentioned above), which rarely attain much more than half that height. Two of the largest examples of Sawara cypress in all of Washington are Bellingham residents, located in Bayview Cemetery.