19 Types of Trees in Japan (With Pictures)
Japan is known to have over 4,000 different species of native trees and plants. And many of these trees such as Cherry Blossoms, Japanese Maples, Japanese Oaks, and Chinese Elms are all too popular here in the U.S.
But what are the most common trees that are native to Japan and what are their characteristics? We’ve done a bit of digging and in this article, we’re going to cover just a handful of them. We’ve also included their hardiness/growth zone ratings1 to help you determine where they’re most likely to grow.
The 19 Types of Trees in Japan
1. Japanese Spruce
|Scientific Name:||Picea jezoensis|
The Japanese Spruce is a large evergreen tree that can be found in Japan’s central mountains and vast forests. They can grow anywhere from 100 to 160 feet high and have an average trunk diameter of around 6 feet.
These trees look like the American Spruce and have small, smooth needle leaves that are about 5-6 inches in length. And like traditional spruces, they also produce cones during late fall and flowers in the summer months. They prefer partial light (generally, less than 4-5 hours of daily sunlight is best) and soil that is moist and loose. They’ve been known to live over 300 years.
2. Japanese Larch
|Scientific Name:||Larix kaempferi|
The Japanese Larch is a deciduous conifer that grows naturally in Japan’s shady temperate forests. They are also known as “karamatsu”, in Japanese. They can be found in the Honshu’s mountains and the Chubu areas.
The leaves are needle-like and either yellow or orange depending on the season. The larch can grow to 60 to 80 feet in height and its canopy can reach up to 40 feet in width. They thrive in full sun and prefer well-drained soil that’s deep and moist.
3. Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree (aka “Sakura”)
|Scientific Name:||Prunus serulata|
These well-known flowering trees captivate people with their stunning beauty and blooming speed. Cherry blossoms are Japan’s most beloved ornamental tree. They’re also considered the Japanese national flower.
They have beautiful blossoms with fragrant flowers that are pale pink, and white. The Cherry Blossom has a huge trunk and average crown, and it can reach up to 20-40 feet in height. Cherry Blossom petals can actually be eaten in sweets, tea, and pickles. They’re also used to make fragrances such as body mist as well as skincare products.
4. Japanese Cedar
|Scientific Name:||Cryptomeria japonica|
Another type of tree that is found in Japanese forests is Japanese cryptomeria, also known as Japanese Cedar. It’s native to both South Japan and southern China. These average-size trees usually grow up to 50 to 70 feet tall, and about 20 to 30 feet wide.
Their pyramidal or cone-like shape makes them ideal for growing in large areas. In Japanese culture, they are a symbol of power and endurance. The Japanese Cedar prefers well-drained, acidic soil that is moist and rich, but they can adapt really well. They can be grown in full sun or partial shade.
5. Japanese Beech
|Scientific Name:||Fagus crenata|
Japanese Beech is a tall deciduous tree that is only found in Japan’s mountainous forests. These trees can thrive in loamy, sandy, loamy, well-drained soil. The beech tree can reach up to 115 feet when it reaches maturity.
They have medium-sized veiny leaves that turn orange and yellow in the fall and their bark is smooth with a grayish tint and slim appearance. The Japanese Beech thrives in full sun and prefers mild, neutral soil that’s either moist or slightly dry. These giant trees have been known to live for over 400 years.
6. Japanese Pine Tree
|Scientific Name:||Pinus thunbergii|
There are two species of Japanese red pine that are commonly found in Japanese landscapes: Japanese Red Pine and Japanese Black Pine. The pine matures at a height of 14 to 50 ft and a width of 20-34 ft.
Red pines, on the other hand, can grow to around 30-50 feet. Pine trees are associated masculinely in Ancient Shinto beliefs and are very revered in Japanese culture. The trees are a symbol of good fortune, long life, and stability.
7. Japanese Plum Yew
|Scientific Name:||Cephalotaxus harringtonia|
Japanese Plum Yew is popular in many landscapes across Japan and is a slow-growing, evergreen shrub that’s well-known for its dark-green needle leaves. These trees are not only native to Japan but are also native to China and Korea.
They can thrive in full sun or shady areas with partial light. They grow to about 5-10 feet and have an average canopy spread of about 5 to 14 feet. The Japanese Plum Yew is another “lifer tree” and can live for 50 to 150 years.
8. Japanese Maple Trees
|Scientific Name:||Acer palmatum|
This particular Japanese tree is considered a symbol of peace and serenity. For centuries, their bright red leaves have captured the attention and hearts of the people of Japan. These maple trees are responsible for brightening up Japanese mountains in the fall with bright colors including orange, yellow, and red.
They also have a significant influence on Japanese poetry and art. They can reach a height of between 14 to 25 feet and then spread out to around 20 feet when they mature.
9. Oyama Magnolia
|Scientific Name:||Magnolia sieboldii|
Oyama Magnolia is a vase-shaped shrub that blooms in late May and lasts until around July. It’s known for its cup-shaped, fragrant white flowers and striking reddish-orange seeds. Oyama Magnolia, also known as Korean Magnolia, is a native to China and South Korea as well as Japan.
It’s great for large landscapes and small gardens, as it can reach up to 15 to 25 feet in height. The magnolia has an average spread of about 15 feet. These trees are known to live for about 50 years or so.
10. Japanese Tree Lilac
|Scientific Name:||Syringa reticulata|
Japanese tree lilac is another medium-sized deciduous shrub that can grow to a height of approximately 20 to 30 feet and its canopy can spread out to about 15 to 20 feet. This is one of the Japanese ornamental trees that offers breathtaking views from the mountains in which they live.
They produce large clusters of stunning, creamy white flowers in early summer that have a recognizable musky fragrance. Their Christmas tree shape is wider at the base than at the top and the bark is smooth with horizontal lines.
11. Japanese Zelkova
|Scientific Name:||Zelkova serrata|
The Japanese Zelkova tree has a wide canopy compared to the girth of its bark. It’s known for its reddish-brown fall leaves and grayish-brown bark. The bark falls off during the winter, exposing a surprisingly orangish inner bark.
The small green changes from green to orange to brown to deep red or reddish-purple in fall. The Zelkova can reach heights of 50 to 80 feet in height with an average canopy of up to 75 feet at maturity. They’re very popular as bonsai trees and are great for backyards and walkways.
12. Japanese Oak
|Scientific Name:||Quercus acuta|
These oak trees have long, oval-shaped leaves that are coated with a waxy material that allows them to withstand cooler temperatures. These trees can also be found in South Korea and in China.
Japanese Oaks can grow to between 20 and 30 feet tall, and their canopy will reach about 15 to 20 feet wide. Their trunk has gray bark with low, dense branches. These oaks are also known for their long-life span, which is said to be hundreds of years.
13. Japanese Chestnut
|Scientific Name:||Castanea crenata|
Japanese Chestnuts are native to both South Korea and Japan. They were first commercially grown in the 11th Century. These are medium-sized deciduous trees, which can grow up to 30 to 50 feet in height with wide canopies of around 20 to 25 feet. They produce small nuts (about the size of ping pong balls) that fall off in late autumn.
These nuts are edible and marketed in the country as a popular snack. These trees love full sun but can survive in partially shady areas as well. The Japanese Chestnut is known to live for over 100 years.
14. Japanese Nikko Fir
|Scientific Name:||Abies homolepis|
The Japanese Nikko fir is an evergreen conifer native to the cool, shadowy rainforests of southern Shikoku and Honshu. These trees are tall, green, and have narrow trunks with white bands throughout. They can grow to about 80 to 100 feet tall with trunks of about 6 feet in diameter.
The fir can thrive in loamy, sandy, acidic soil. They have small stick-like leaves, similar to pine trees, and their wood is commonly used for lumber. Nikko Japanese fir grows best in full sunlight and lives for about 60 or more years.
The Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is another color-changing deciduous tree, with new spring leaves arriving in reddish-purple hues that change to blue-green as they age. In the fall, they transition to vibrant yellows and oranges. They also take on a spicy, sugary fragrance, earning the tree the nickname “the caramel tree.”
Growing in a pyramidal shape when young, the Katsura rounds out into a beautiful shade tree as it matures. It isn’t drought-tolerant, but it is resistant to most pests. With numerous available cultivars, it’s easy to get the color, shape, and size to suit your yard.
16. Japanese White Pine
|Scientific Name:||Pinus parviflora|
As a dense evergreen, the slow-growing Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora) doesn’t grow as tall as the black pine. Glossy curved needles arrange themselves in twisted bundles on horizontal branches. The pines are cone-shaped in their youth and develop a flat canopy as they mature.
A broad array of cultivars and several bonsai varieties make the Japanese white pine an accessible garden specimen. The blue-green foliage arranges in tight bouquets to add year-round visual interest. It grows best in cooler environments with full sun, but it can tolerate occasional drought, salt spray, and various soil conditions as long as it is well-drained.
17. Hinoki Cypress
|Scientific Name:||Chamaecyparis obtusa|
The Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) is an elegant plant available in several cultivars ranging from compact shrubs to medium-large trees. It grows in a pyramidal shape, adding interest through peeling red-tinted bark and evergreen foliage. The dark green needles have a scaly texture and flatten into a fanned-out pattern with age.
There aren’t many pests or diseases posing a substantial threat to the Hinoki cypress, and the tree is relatively easy to grow. It can tolerate some shade and various soil conditions as long as it’s well-drained. Ideally, you should find a sunny, wind-sheltered spot with moist, rich soil.
18. Japanese Alder
|Scientific Name:||Alnus japonica|
The Japanese alder (Alnus Japonica) is a cone-shaped deciduous tree featuring dark green, elliptical leaves that provide decent shade coverage. The fall color isn’t particularly spectacular, but the tree grows well in sites ill-suited for other vegetation.
It’s capable of thriving in wet soil and is common around swamps and streams in its native Japan. Poor soil quality isn’t an issue, nor is shade, so there’s little limitation to the growing potential no matter your backyard conditions.
19. Luchu Pine
|Scientific Name:||Pinus luchuensis|
The Luchu pine (Pinus luchuensis) is the primary pine species on Japan’s Ryuku Islands. The evergreen’s branches spread up and out to form a flat-top canopy, growing dark green needles up to 8 inches long.
Since it grows out in the open air on dunes and hillsides, the Luchu pine tolerates wind well. It isn’t particularly cold-hardy and grows best when given full sun and well-drained soil similar to the sandy, gravelly ground in which it typically lives.
Wrapping Things Up
If you happen to visit the country of Japan, you’ll likely see many of these tree varieties around the countryside or in the vast forests within the region. You may also notice that many of the trees are very similar in appearance to their American counterparts, especially the beech, spruce, and pine trees.
This list barely scrapes the surface when it comes to popular Japanese trees. Many are used for commercial purposes such as paper, clothing, and lumber, and others are sold as ornamental trees in countries all around the world.
Featured Image Credit: PxHere