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A Floridata Plant Profile #85 Pinus thunbergii
Common Names: black pine, Japanese black pine
Family: Pinaceae (pine Family)
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tree  Drought Tolerant Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

japanese black pine
Japanese black pine assumes massive proportions with age, often assuming attractively irregular forms.
Japanese black pine is a distinctive and picturesque evergreen with an open, irregular structure. The branches are large and contorted, horizontally spreading and sometimes pendulous. The foliage tends to be concentrated near the tips of the branchlets. Japanese black pine generally gets 20-30 ft (6-9 m) tall in cultivation, but can get over 100 ft (30.5 m) tall in its native habitat. Japanese black pine has fairly stiff dark green needles 3-5 in (7.6-12.7 cm) long in sheaths of two. It usually sports silvery white "candles" - young fast-growing upright shoots. The candles really stand out against the dark green foliage. Many cultivars have been selected, especially in Japan, and most are difficult to obtain in the U.S. 'Thunderhead' is compact, with dense foliage and stays under 10 ft (3 m) tall. The needles of 'Oculus-draconis' have yellow crossbands. 'Iseli' has needles edged with yellow. 'Kotobuki' is smaller with short needles. There are several dwarf cultivars selected for bonsai.

Japanese black pine is native to northeastern China, Korea and Japan. It's a popular landscape tree in Japan and in coastal gardens in northern Europe and the northeastern U.S.

japanese black pine
Japanese black pine has needlelike leaves that are attached to the branchlets in clusters of 2.
To shape pine trees, prune away half of the new candle in spring and the shoot will develop side branches; then you can select which side branches to keep.
Light: Full sun.
Moisture: Japanese black pine is quite tolerant of drought and requires a well-drained soil. It does very well in sand.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. Zone 5 and 8 are the extremes; Japanese black pine seems to do best in zones 6 and 7.
Propagation: Seeds germinate readily. Cuttings and grafting can be used for cultivars, but the success rate is usually very low.

Japanese black pine is very tolerant of high winds and salt spray - an excellent evergreen for the coastal and even the seaside garden. Use this tough pine in exposed situations, where it develops its most picturesque form. Japanese black pine has been used to stabilize sand dunes. It also is reported to be tolerant of urban conditions.

japanese black pine
Japanese black pine's thick bark provides protection from wind and salt-spray.

There are some 110 species in the genus Pinus, which is one of nine genera in the family Pinaceae, which is (according to some authorities) one of seven families in the order Coniferales. The other genera in the pine family are Abies, the firs; Cedrus, the cedars; Keteleeria, a genus of three obscure fir-like species from SE Asia; Larix, the larches; Picea, the spruces; Pseudotsuga, the Douglas firs; Tsuga, the hemlocks; and Nothotsuga, Cathaya and Pseudolarix, three obscure monotypic genera from China. The other families in the order Coniferales are the Araucariaceae, a family of 2 genera and 32 species, including Norfolk Island Pine and monkey puzzle tree; Cephalotaxaceae, 7 species of plum-yews in a single genus; Cupressaceae, 17 genera with about 120 species including Monterey cypress, the junipers and American arborvitae; Podocarpaceae, seven genera with about 100 species including the Japanese yews; Taxaceae, the true yews such as Florida yew and torreya; and Taxodiaceae, an ancient family with 10 genera and including such species as baldcypress, California redwood and dawn redwood. Some authorities place the families Taxaceae, Cephalotaxaceae and Podocarpaceae in a separate order, Taxales, and some authorities include the family Taxodiaceae within Cupressaceae.

Steve Christman 10/21/00; updated 9/10/03

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