Identification: Unknown Chinese Conifer

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by Pinecraze, May 6, 2021.

  1. Pinecraze

    Pinecraze New Member

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    Hello fellow conifer enthusiasts!

    We got this tree from a local nursery in Chiang Mai, Thailand, about 3 months ago. The owner was unaware of the specific species, merely calling it a Chinese conifer. We then started doing some research online, but didn't find anything convincing. Nevertheless, out of the countless kinds of cypresses that we've compared with, one particular species stood out, which is the critically endangered Chinese Swamp Cypress (Glyptostrobus pensilis). The narrow conical shape of the tree, foliage behavior, as well as leaf structure seem to match, although the bark on our specimen is a much darker shade.

    Regarding the foliage, we haven't seen it firsthand whether it sheds its leaves entirely (like Dawn redwood and Glyptostrobus pensilis), or not, but currently it seems to be in a recovery stage after being transplanted, with new growths throughout the tree. The nursery did mention it being leafy in the wet season, and losing them in the drier period, so it's likely deciduous.

    Any thoughts on this??

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    The tree is roughly 30 feet tall:

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    Branches curving upwards:

    fYW8ywB.jpg yZHSFVb.jpg UNh8k7R.jpg

    Close-up shots of the foliage:

    V1e6Yri.jpg JEyV7J4.jpg
    Bark texture:
    Meimo5z.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2021
  2. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Regrettably not Glyptostrobus! Note that the leaves are in whorls of 3; in Glyptostrobus, the leaves are arranged spirally. Leaves in 3s like this is charactersitc of many junipers; with an origin in China, it is likely Juniperus chinensis. The mix of adult scale leaves and juvenile needle-like leaves on the same shoots also fits this (though this can be a feature of several other junipers too).
     
  3. Margot

    Margot Renowned Contributor 10 Years

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    Has it been only 3 months since you acquired this tree? Do you know how old it is? I'm amazed - and curious.
     
  4. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Looks like a semi-mature tree, perhaps 20 years old at purchase - exceedingly expensive, and with a low success rate. This specimen is alive, but it's very far from thriving. I don't think it'll ever make a good specimen, as it won't fill in the bare areas. Not worth the cost at all.
     
  5. Pinecraze

    Pinecraze New Member

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    Hey guys!

    Thanks for chipping in, and my apologies for getting back to you all so late!
    Upon closer look, I did notice how dissimilar the foliage is to that of Glyptostrobus. However, I wouldn't say it resembles any of the Juniperus chinensis, of which I have plenty of on my property. I am not very familiar with other juniper species, so I assume there could be possibilities among others in the genus as well. Anyhow, I am thinking of something else...
    It's been a while since then, but yes! Regarding the age of the tree, I am still unaware of it at the moment, but an exact species ID should give a rough estimate.
    Exceedingly expensive? Elsewhere in the world, then perhaps yes, but not this particular one here in Thailand. As a matter of fact, the tree was sold for 3,500 baht (just over a hundred bucks), and that included shipping and transplanting. So far, the specimen is doing quite well, though, yes, it will take quite some time (or perhaps forever) to fully fill in, as a conifer enthusiast I do enjoy its company in our small, yet ever-growing coniferous garden.

    In the meantime, I've been doing some more research on its identity, and it appears I've been overlooking a genus that might just fit the bills: Callitris, or Cypress-pine. It is the exact species that I'll need help identifying, but my best guess is C. columellaris. This is a surprising find considering that the genus is native to Australasia, therefore the nursery's description of it being "chinese" is likely a poor speculation. Still, the fact that the tree is so far out of its habitat, as well as the similarities among members of the Callitris family, is something I'd leave for tropical conifer experts to figure out.
     
  6. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Not a Callitris, they have quite different foliage character, including not the mix of juvenile needle-leaves and adult scale-leaves shown here. Definitely a juniper. I'd still not rule out Juniperus chinensis; it is very variable, with numerous cultivars - just because it doesn't look like the ones you have already, doesn't nean it isn't one.

    Prices in Thailand will be a lot lower than in the West, but I'd still call $100 fairly expensive, for something you could get for $5 or $10 if you get a small one that will establish much better and overtake the large one in a surprisingly short time.
     

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