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Featured Plant

Thujopsis dolabrata


Scientific Name: Thujopsis dolabrata

Common Name: Hiba Cedar

Family: Cupressaceae

Plant Type: Tree

Environment: Thujopsis requires year round watering, needs a lot of space to mature to its full height potential of 90 feet, and grows very well in the San Francisco climate.


Uses: Excellent for a larger yard or estate. For San Francisco planting, bonsai might be the best option. Used in Japan for its valuable wood which is scented and durable.

Other: The reddish bark peels off in long vertical strips. T. dolabrata is monoecious, having both male and female reproductive parts on the same plant. Female cones ripen from October to November. There are only two species of Thujopsis, Thujopsis dolabrata var. dolabrata and Thujopsis dolabrata var. hondai. Thujopsis dolabrata is endemic to Japan, where it is named Asunaro (あすなろ) and also goes by the name hiba (ひば). It is commonly planted in gardens and near temples.


Hiba Cedar can be found on:

Conifer Lawn (Bed 46b)  

Temperate Asia Garden (Beds 4B and 20).



Thujopsis dolabrata

At the edge of the lawn, just south of the Moon Viewing Garden, is one of the most beautiful 'cedars' in the world, Thujopsis dolabrata var. hondae. It is a handsome pyramidal specimen standing 40 feet high, a native of moist forests in Japan with dark green and glistening foliage. Looking at the silvery backside of a branch, visible markings of stomata (pores) are visible. Stomata can be found in all plant leaves, are usually invisible, take in carbon dioxide and expel water vapor and oxygen. Thujopsis means “like a Thuja or cedar”, which is where the common name 'cedar' is derived. T. dolabrata, like many other trees with the common name cedar, is actually not a true cedar. Hiba Cedar, however, has many qualities that true cedars demonstrate and was most likely given its name due to its similarity to the genus Cedrus. Dolabrata means hatchet-like and refers to the shape of the stomata.

Thujopsis dolabrata differs from Incense Cedar and Red Cedar as it has wider flatter branches and visible stomata. Cone shape is also quite variable, tending to be globular more than flask-like. Like other cedars and Cedrus, the bark is shreddy and scented.

Thujopsis' large size limits usefulness in most gardens. It does best in parks and on estates where it has plenty of room to reach its natural height, 90 feet in Japan. It is not drought tolerant and needs dependable rainfall. The healthy condition of our trees speak well for the extra moisture San Francisco fog brings to the Garden.


Joanne Taylor and Kathy McNeil
Profile Contributor: David Kruse-Pickler
Additional photos provided by SFBG visitor Eric Hunt


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