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Green Valley Supply's Gardening Encyclopedia



Cunninghamia in a Forest

Cunninghamia in a Forest

What is Cunninghamia?

Cunninghamia is a plant genus comprising of two evergreen species of coniferous trees. It belongs to the Cupressaceae family of cypress trees. The trees are native to Cambodia, northern Vietnam, China and Laos. The konishii plant species is native to Taiwan. The trees can grow up to 160 feet in height.

Also known as China-fir, Cunninghamia was named after a British doctor known as Dr. James Cunningham and Allan Cunningham, a botanist. In 1702, he introduced the plant species for cultivation.

The two plant species, Cunninghamia konishii and Cunninghamia lanceolata, are commonly known as Taiwan fir and China fir, respectively. According to molecular genetic studies, the two trees belong to the same species. Cunninghamia konishii plant species results from many mainland colonization.

If combined, the two plant species would become Cunninghamia lanceolata variation konishii. C. lanceolata species was published before konishii. The plant genus was previously under the Taxodiaceae family. Some botanists consider the genus to belong to the Cunninghamiaceae family.

Cunninghamia Plant Description

Cunninghamia tree is conical-shaped with tiers of horizontal branches. The tree branches are pendulous in the direction of the tips. The stiff, softly-spined and leathery leaves are needle-like. The spiral, needle leaves are blue-green in color and feature an upward arch.

The leaves grow up to 7cm in length and 5mm wide with a broad base. Beneath the leaves is a stomatal band  ranging in color from white to greenish-white. The band sometimes appear on the upper side of the leaves. Cunninghamia tree foliage turns bronze in cold winter.

Cunninghamia lanceolata

Cunninghamia lanceolata

Tree pollination occurs in late winter. The trees feature small, unnoticeable cones in 30 clusters of 10 to 30 pollen cones. The female cones often appear in groups of 2 to 3 or singly.

Cunninghamia seeds mature in 7 to 8 months. The leaves grow up to 4.5cm long and ranges in shape from globose to ovoid. A single scale produces up to 5 seeds. The cones are proliferous, grow vegetation on their tips, on cultivated trees. The trait is used in plantation of forests.

The genus trees can grow in trunks with multiple forms. Mature trees have brown bark color and can easily peel off in strips to unearth the inner bark in a reddish-brown hue. However, ancient tree specimens tend to appear ragged, and needle-like leaves cling to tree stems for about 5 years.

Cunninghamia tree is often mistaken for the Torreya taxifolia; the difference lies in the fact that the former has many trunks and bronze leaves in autumn. The leaves fall during the season, piling beneath the tree.

Furthermore, Cunninghamia leaves are odorless whereas that of the latter tree resembles the smell of tomatoes. Torreya taxifolia, a rare tree, is also referred to as 'stinking cedar' or 'Florida's gopher wood'.

Uses of Cunninghamia

Cunninghamia is grown for timber in China. Just like Sugi and Coast Redwood, it has a nice scent. Cunninghamia timber is used in constructing temples and making coffins, among other valuable furniture and structures. It's also grown in large gardens and parks as ornamental trees.

Cunninghamia (Blue Chinese Fir Tree)

Cunninghamia (Blue Chinese Fir Tree)

You can also grow cunninghamia in your garden as an ornamental tree to beautify your landscape and home at large.

If you need pots or large grow bags to propagate your trees, check out our Fabric Planter Grow Bags for the right number you need.

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