Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - May 09, 2007

From: Raleigh, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: General Botany, Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Identification of Cryptomeria japonica for homeowners association
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Good morning. We are wondering if Cryptomeria japonica trees can fit under the term "pine like". We used the term pine like when asking for our home owners associations approval and we put in a Cryptomeria japonica. When we were describing the trees we just wanted them to get an idea or a visual that it would be green all year and not lose its leaves. They now want us to take them out, which we find ridiculous to just kill trees because we didn't use the scientific name. They approved the trees under the vague term of pine like so we need to know if somehow these cypress trees as they are calling them can be considered pine like? Any information will be helpful. Thanks for your time,

ANSWER:

Cryptomeria japonica, Japanese cedar, an Asian native, is a member of the Family Cupressaceae (Cypress Family). [Until a recent revision, it was in another family, Family Taxodiaceae which incorporated into Family Cupressaceae.] Other members of the family are the Taxodium distichum (bald cypress), Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant sequoia), Sequoia sempervirens (redwood), Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar), Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper), and Cupressus nootkatensis (Alaska cedar). Pines, such as Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine); firs, such as Abies balsamea (balsam fir); larches, such as Larix laricina (tamarack) and spruces, such as Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce), are members of the Family Pinaceae (Pine Family). Both the Cupressaceae and the Pinaceae are in the Order Pinales which also has four other families.

The taxonomy is hierarchical. For instance, for Cryptomeria japonica it would look like this:

Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Coniferophyta,

Class: Pinopsida

Order: Pinales

Family: Cupressaceae

Genus: Cryptomeria

Species: japonica

 

Pinus ponderosa would look like this:

Kingdom: Plantae

Division: Coniferophyta,

Class: Pinopsida

Order: Pinales

Family: Pinaceae

Genus: Pinus

Species: ponderosa

So, Cryptomeria japonica is in the same Kingdom, Division, Class and Order as the pines, but it is in a different Family, Genus and Species. C. japonica is pine-like in that it is evergreen and reproduces from seeds carried in cones. They are different from pines in that they have scale-like leaves; whereas pines have needle-like leaves. Since you are in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7 in Raleigh, North Carolina, your tree may turn brown or purple in the wintertime, rather than stay completely green.

So, the short answer to your question is that your C. japonica isn't a pine but it is closely related to pines. It is certainly more "pine-like" than it is "oak-like" or "elm-like".

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Dodder
April 06, 2012 - I was driving around Llano, Texas and saw patches of orange amongst the wildflowers. From afar the patches seemed like dying plants. On close inspection, they are orange tendrils that are overrunnin...
view the full question and answer

How Can I Tell an Invasive Thistle from a Native
May 01, 2012 - Mr Smarty Plants, I have some thistles coming up in my yard. I'd like to keep them if they are native, but not if they are invasive or non-native. How can I tell? My yard is a wild area in West Lak...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
August 14, 2009 - I am trying to identify a plant I saw this past weekend in San Diego, California. It was a low growing shrub planted along the road near a beach. The flowers looked like large star jasmine, leaves wer...
view the full question and answer

Identification of bush/vine with purple berries
August 09, 2014 - I was clearing fence line and came across this plant it looks like a Bush but underneath grows like a vine it has long broad leaves that reminded me of Polk salad but it grows berry clusters the berri...
view the full question and answer

ID for Caribbean mystery plants.
January 13, 2016 - I AM TRYING TO FIND THE COMMON NAME FOR TWO FLOWERS I TOOK PICTURES OF ON A CARIBBEAN CRUISE. I TOOK ONE IN HONDURAS AND ONE IN GRAND CAYMAN. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHERE I CAN GO TO TO GET HELP IN ID...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.