List of Trees Native to Japan

Trees are the gift of nature that gives us not only shade but also the reason for our breathing.

If you have ever come to my country Japan, you might have already got a view of different trees, from floral to evergreen types. And I bet that cherry blossom trees are stuck in your mind the most. Right?

Almost everyone appreciates these flowering trees, but the other types of Japanese trees aren’t any less!

Yes, as you may not know much about the other ones, you are only stunned by the few.

So, today I will give you a naturally soothing ride through different species of trees native to Japan.

Let’s start…

15 Most Well-Known Native Trees of Japan That You Should Know About

Since Japan is made up of 6,852 islands, it is home to vast biodiversity. Here you will find a number of unique trees that are praised for their beauty as well as other benefits.

There are around 4,500 species that are native to Japan, among which trees stand out the most. Some of them are widely popular worldwide, such as flowering cherry trees and Japanese maple.

But there are also other types of trees in Japan that can be grown in gardens worldwide.

Now, whether you are interested in growing one in your garden or want to know about them casually, I am presenting some of the most famous trees in Japan.

1. Sakura Or Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree

A flowering tree that can stun people in a second with its captivating beauty is cherry blossoms!

Stunning cherry blossom tree in Japan

You know what, I can never find an appropriate word that can truly describe its attractiveness.

If you only have seen it in pictures, I suggest you come and view it in real life. Only after then, you are going to know its actual charm.

Cherry blossoms are the most popular Japanese ornamental tree. Also, they are considered to be the national flower of Japan.

Ornamental cherry flower

But, there is a huge debate on which country is the origin of these trees. One thing is sure they are native to either Japan, Korea, or China.

Personally, I think that Japan has truly given these flowers a meaning to cherish. And we adore them more than any other country.

Anyway, whatever their origin is, we should focus on the tree’s beauty and other factors now.

Cherry blossoms blooming marks the beginning of spring. Since the flowers only stay for a few weeks, they have a meaning of fleeting nature of life.

Blooming cherry blossom marks the arrival of spring

These blossoms have different colors depending on the varieties. The most common colors are pale pink, bright pink, and white.

In Japan, Yoshino cherry trees are the most renowned variety. These trees have a massive structure that can reach 20 to 40 feet in height and 15 to 30 feet canopy.

Yoshino Cherry trees

During the Nara period (710 to 794), members of the Imperial Palace used to gather under sakura trees to view and admire these pink and white blossoms. And that’s how the tradition of Hanami (cherry blossom viewing festival) originated.

Today, this tradition is celebrated in Japan by family and friends by gathering and enjoying a picnic under cherry blossom trees.

Hanami celebration under cherry blossom tree

Another custom is “Yozakura,” when paper lanterns are hung on flowering cherry trees, and people enjoy their late-night picnic with the romantic glow of the lanterns. 

So, if you decide to grow a cherry blossom tree in your garden or yard, you can also arrange such parties during spring and have some unforgettable moments with your loved ones.

Wait, wait, it’s not the end. There are more benefits to growing them!

Some Cherry blossom petals are edible, and you can use them in tea, pickles, and sweets. They are also used in making fragrances, body mist, and skincare products.

Cherry blossom tea

In short, these trees are one of the proud factors of Japan.

Here, I have arranged a box showing different information about one of the varieties of cherry blossom, which is sakura. Have a look.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree
Japanese Name: Sakura
Scientific Name: Prunus Serrulata
Blooming Time: Late March to mid-April or early May
Mature Height: 15 to 25 ft
Lifespan: 15 to 30 years
Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

2. Japanese Maple Trees

If you are looking for Japanese trees for landscaping, this one can be a great choice. The Japanese name for these trees is Momiji, and there are many varieties available.

The most common species is Acer palmatum. They are viewed as a symbol of peace and serenity. Their bright red foliage has been capturing the eyes and hearts of people for centuries. And I think you aren’t an exception.

Japanese maple acer palmatum

Yeah, they are such art of natural beauty!!

During fall, Japanese mountains are decorated with bright red, yellow, or orange colors because of the maple trees. Traditionally, planting these trees is a way of welcoming the autumn season.

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Just like the cherry blossom viewing, there is a tradition of visiting mountains in fall to see the beauty of maple trees which is called “Momiki-gari.”

Beauty of Japanese maple tree

Most Japanese people believe this custom to be a form of communication with nature and spirits living in the trees. These trees also have a great influence on Japanese art and poetry. Well, why not, they serve such a breathtaking charm.

Just imagine an evening you are meeting your love of life under these trees, foliage is dropping, and the wind is blowing. The chill is indescribable, and the scenario will be memorable.

If you visit Japan during the fall season, you will be able to enjoy these trees’ charm in the gardens. They are also found in temples and shrines.

Japanese maple in Temple

They can grow to a height of 15 to 25 feet and spread around 20 feet at maturity with a round shape.

Interestingly, you can grow them as bonsai, which can be an eye-catching décor for your home. They are also able to adjust to different climates.

Now you may get surprised to know that fried maple leaves are one of the tasty delicacies in Japan, especially in Osaka. For a unique flavor, maple leaves are kept for a year in salt barrels before being coated in tempura batter and deep-fried.

Fried maple leaves

I recommend you try this snack known as “Momiji Tempura.” Who knows, the taste may surprise you and make you keep asking for more!

Japanese Maple Tree
Japanese Name: Momiji
Scientific Name: Acer palmatum
Mature Height: 4 to 25 ft
Mature Spread: 4 to 25 ft
Lifespan: About 100 years
Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

3. Japanese Pine Tree

These trees are one of the most dominant native trees in Japan. There are two species of pine that are broadly found in gardens: Japanese red pine and Japanese black pine.

Mature black pine can grow 15 to 50 ft in height and 20 to 35 ft in width. On the other hand, red pine can reach around 100 feet in the wild, but it tends to grow about 30 to 50 ft in landscapes.

Japanese red pine and black pine

You can grow both black and red Japanese pine as bonsai.

Pine trees are known in Japan as “Matsu.” In Japanese, the word Matsu means waiting for God’s soul to descend from heaven.

According to ancient Shinto beliefs, gods ascended to heaven on pine trees. Pine branches were used to embellish samurai armor and katana before the Edo period because pine trees were associated with masculinity.

Hence, it’s no wonder that these trees are revered in Japanese culture.

The pine trees symbolize good fortune, steadfastness, and longevity. They are considered one of the Japanese evergreen trees and also part of the new year tradition representing rebirth, renewal, and a hopeful future.

Japanese pine symbolize good fortune

If you’ve ever visited a Shinto shrine in Japan, you have probably already seen these trees as they are often found there. Visitors tie omikuji (or paper fortunes) to these trees’ branches.

Because pine trees are said to ward off bad luck and evil spirits, larger shrines often have them planted around their perimeter.

Pine tree near shrine

Except for a single pine tree, a forest of 70,000 pine trees was devastated by the 2011’s Great East Earthquake and Tsunami. And that tree has become a national symbol of determination and resilience.

Japanese Black Pine
Scientific Name: Pinus thunbergii
Mature Height: 15 to 50 ft
Mature Spread: 20 to 35 ft
Blooming Time: Spring
Hardiness Zones: 6 to 8
Lifespan: About 150 years
Japanese Red Pine
Scientific Name: Pinus densiflora
Mature Height: Around 30 to 50 ft
Mature Spread: Around 15 to 25 ft
Blooming Time: Spring
Hardiness Zones: 4 to 7
Lifespan: 80 years or more

4. Japanese Oak

Japanese oak, whose botanical name is Quercus acuta, is an evergreen oak tree native to Japan, China, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Their leaves are simple, oblong-ovate to lanceolate, or elliptical in terms of shape. They have glossy green color on the upper surface and yellowish-green color on the underside.

Japanese Oak

The tree can reach 20 to 30 feet in height, 15 to 20 feet in width, and has an oval to rounded shape with dense, low branching, smooth gray bark.

Japanese Evergreen Oak is perfect for use as a specimen, screen, or small shade tree because of its dense growth and small size. The wood of these trees is used in Japanese martial arts practice weapons.

Japanese Evergreen Oak
Scientific Name: Quercus acuta
Mature Height: 20 to 30 ft
Mature Spread: 15 to 20 ft
Flower Characteristics: Not showy
Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11
Lifespan: Around 2000 years in appropriate condition

5. Japanese Plum Yew

Japanese plum yew is one of the common types of trees found in Japanese gardens. It’s a slow-growing evergreen shrub well-known for its dark green needles and foliage.

Japanese plum yew

Although these trees are native to Japan, they are also grown in Korea and China for centuries.

One of the advantages of growing these trees is they can thrive in full shade. Whether you plant them under tall trees or on the shady side of a wall, there is no problem at all. But don’t assume that they can’t grow in the full sun cause it’s not true.

See also  22 Surprising Facts About Cherry Blossoms in Japan

If you want to establish a Japanese garden with some deep-green soothing views, this would be a great choice.

Cephalotaxus harringtonia

By the way, the wild tree can grow large, so I recommend choosing a more compact species like the one named “Duke Gardens.”

Japanese Plum Yew
Scientific Name: Cephalotaxus harringtonia
Mature Height: 5 to 10 ft
Mature Spread: 5 to 14 ft
Foliage Color: Green
Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9
Lifespan: 50 to 150 years

6. Japanese Larch

Japanese Larch is a naturally grown deciduous conifer in the temperate forests of Japan. They are known as “karamatsu” in Japanese. They are largely found in the mountains of Kanto and Chubu regions in central Honshu.

Their leaves are needle-like, glaucous green color, and are around 2 to 5 cm long. The trees can reach 70 to 80 feet tall and 25 to 40 feet wide.

Japanese larch needle like foliage

The crown is conical, dense, and becomes irregular and more open with age. Each winter, Japanese Larch loses its foliage.

It is among one of the earliest trees that come into leaf in spring. The leaves turn bright yellow to orange before falling in the autumn.

Japanese larch during fall

Japanese Larch is a fast-growing, hardy tree that makes a beautiful specimen in a vast landscape. It can adapt to wet areas, tolerate clay soils, and is also disease-resistant. They prefer full sun and can easily be grown in deep, well-drained soil.

Japanese Larch
Scientific Name: Larix kaempferi
Mature Height: 70 to 80 ft
Mature Spread: 25 to 40 ft
Flower Color: Inconspicuous
Hardiness Zones: 4 to 7
Lifespan: 70 years or more

7. Japanese Tree Lilac

Japanese tree lilac is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can reach a height of around 20 to 30 feet with 15 to 20 feet spread.

It is one of the Japanese ornamental trees that provides a stunning panorama. In early summer, they produce huge clusters of beautiful creamy white flowers that are packed with a musky scent.

Japanese tree lilac

Their flowers stay attractive for only 1 to 2 weeks. The blossoms provide clusters of tan capsules that last well into the winter months.

They have a Christmas tree shape, wider at the base and narrower at the top, with spreading branches and an oval to the spherical crown. Their bark is smooth with horizontal lenticels, and the dark green leaves remain attractive during summer.

Japanese tree lilac flowers with dark green leaves

Japanese Tree Lilac is best when grown in cool summer climates, so it’s not recommended to plant south of USDA Zone 7.

They can be planted as specimens, beside the street, on a border, or in small groups.

Japanese Tree Lilac
Scientific Name: Syringa reticulata
Mature Height: 20 to 30 ft
Mature Spread: 15 to 20 ft
Blooming Time: Early Summer
Characteristics: Cut flowers, fragrant, showy
Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
Lifespan: 40 to 50 years

8. Oyama Magnolia

Do you want a summer-flowering tree to adorn your garden?

Then you may look forward to Oyama Magnolia, a vase-shaped shrub that blooms from late May and stays till July.

Oyama Magnolia vase shaped tree

Yes, a long six weeks of beautiful flourished flowers will keep your yard decorated and your eyes fascinated!

Their cup-shaped fragrant white flowers (4 inches across) with striking stamens look absolutely admirable. They’re followed by 3 in. (7 cm) long spectacular pink oval fruits that split open in the fall to reveal orange to red seeds.

cup-shaped fragrant white flowers of oyama magnolia

In autumn, their green leaves turn golden yellow before falling.

Native to Japan, Korea, and Southeastern China, Oyama Magnolia is also known as Korean Magnolia. It grows as an undergrowth tree or large shrub in the wild. And it’s a great choice for small gardens as they reach only 15 to 25 feet in height with approx. 15 feet spread.

Oyama Magnolia
Scientific Name: Magnolia sieboldii
Mature Height: 15 to 25 ft
Mature Spread: Approximately 15 ft
Blooming Time: Late May to July
Characteristics: Fragrant, showy
Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9
Lifespan: 60 years or more

9. Japanese Cedar

Japanese cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica), broadly known as Japanese Cedar, is another type of tree found in Japanese forests. They are native to both South Japan and China.

These trees can reach 50 to 70 ft tall and 20 to 30 ft wide with a conical to pyramidal shape. And they symbolizes power and longevity.

Cryptomeria japonica

They are often found in Shinto shrines lining the ways to several important places, such as the grave of Tokugawa Ieyasu in Nikko and the Zuihoden Mausoleum of Date Masamune in Sendai.

The tree’s genus name comes from the Greek word krypto, which means to hide, and meris, which means part, referring to the hidden position of the reproductive organs.

Japanese Cedar prefers rich, well-drained, moist, acidic soil but is adjustable to other soil types. They can grow in speckled sunlight, full sun, or partial shade.

Japanese Cedar under sun

Their reddish-brown exfoliating bark looks quite attractive, and that’s why the wood is highly valued for creating many things.

They’re resistant to damage by deer and slightly salt tolerant. Also, these trees don’t require high maintenance. Because of the soft, graceful habit, the Japanese Cedar is an ideal specimen tree for the lawn or naturalized area.

Japanese Cedar in naturalized area

By the way, don’t worry about the size as shorter cultivars are also available.

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Japanese Cedar
Scientific Name: Cryptomeria japonica
Japanese Name: Sugi
Mature Height: 50 to 70 ft
Mature Spread: 20 to 30 ft
Foliage Color: Green (even with exposure to cold or wind)
Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
Lifespan: Over 300 years

10. Japanese Zelkova

The Japanese Zelkova is a tough urban tree for street plantings and residential shade. It has a vase-shaped spreading habit with upright branching.

Japanese Zelkova

When young, their bark is smooth and reddish-brown, with prominent cherry-like lenticels. With age, the tree’s outer bark becomes gray-brown and frequently exfoliates, revealing an orangish inner bark.

In the fall, the medium green leaves develop hues of yellow, orange, brown, and deep red to reddish-purple, putting on a showy display.

Japanese Zelkova leaves

They can grow 50 to 80 feet in height and 50 to 75 feet in width at maturity. But, you can opt for a bonsai since they are vastly popular as a bonsai tree.

Japanese Zelkova is native to Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, and of course, Japan. It was introduced in America in 1862. This tree has another common name which is “Keaki.”

Earlier, I mentioned that these are urban trees; hence you can assume that they can endure wind, drought, and air pollution.

Japanese zelkova in urban area

So, if you live in a city and are looking for a pollution-resistant Japanese tree, it can be a great choice. But make sure to plant them with enough space around.

Japanese Zelkova
Scientific Name: Zelkova serrata
Mature Height: 50 to 80 feet
Mature Spread: 50 to 75 feet
Characteristics: Showy during the fall season
Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
Lifespan: Over 70 years

11. Japanese Chestnut

Japanese chestnuts have grown wild since ancient times and are native to Japan and the Korean peninsula. Chestnuts were first commercially farmed in Japan in the 11th century and are now largely grown in the prefectures of Ehime, Ibaraki, and Kumamoto.

They are small deciduous trees that grow 30 to 50 feet tall. The leaves are almost similar to the sweet chestnut but usually a little smaller, 8 to 19 cm long and 3 to 5 cm broad.

Japanese chestnut tree

The flowers of both genders are borne 7 to 12 cm long. In upright catkins, male flowers are found in the upper part and female flowers are in the lower part. Both of them appear in the summer, and by autumn, female flowers develop into spiny cupules bearing 3–7 brownish nuts, which are shed in October.

It’s a very important tree in Japan because of the heavy production of sweet, edible nuts.

Edible nuts of Japanese chestnut tree

So, having a chestnut tree in the yard means you are gonna be treated with delicious nuts from the fall to winter season.

Japanese Chestnut
Scientific Name: Castanea crenata
Mature Height: 30 to 50 ft
Characteristics: Produce edible nuts
Fruiting Season: Fall through winter
Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
Lifespan: More than 100 years

12. Japanese Spruce

Japanese Spruce (Picea jezoensis) is a large evergreen tree that grows in Japan’s central mountains, north to eastern Siberia, containing the Sikhote-Alin, Kuril Islands, Sakhalin, and Kamchatka, the Changbai Mountains on the China-North Korea border.

It is found in chilly but humid temperate rainforests.

Large Japanese Spruce in forest

The specific epithet jezoensis comes from Ezo, an old name for Hokkaido and other Japanese islands north of Honshu, where the species is found.

They can reach 100 to 160 feet tall with a trunk diameter of around 2 m. Their bark is grayish-brown and deeply fissured, which peels off in irregular scales.

Tall Japanese spruce

Twigs are pale yellowish-brown in color and deeply grooved with a smooth texture.

Their needle-like leaves can be 15 to 20 mm long and 2 mm broad.

Japanese Spruce needle like leaves

These trees produce flowers from May to June, and the cones ripen in September. It’s also occasionally planted as an ornamental tree in extensive gardens.

Japanese Spruce
Scientific Name: Picea jezoensis
Mature Height: 100 to 160 ft
Foliage Color: Glossy dark green with a silver underside
Characteristics: Ornamental
Color of Flowers: Reddish brown
Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
Lifespan: Around 300 years

13. Japanese Beech

Japanese Beech is a deciduous tree endemic to the boreal forests of Japan. They are found from Hokkaido’s Oshima Peninsula to Kyushu’s Osumi Peninsula.

In north-east Honshu, they grow in large stands from sea level up to 1,400 meters. However, its growing range is restricted to mountainous regions and appears in small numbers in the southwest area.

Japanese Beech

The trees can thrive in well-drained, loamy, or sandy soils. At maturity, they reach 115 feet in height.

The leaves are alternating and straightforward, with the upper side being green and the underside being glabrous. They are widest towards the base and have seven to eleven pairs of veins.

Leaves of Japanese Beech

Their crown is rounded, and the bark is gray and smooth. The flowers of the tree are pollinated by wind, and you can eat their young leaves and seeds.

I want to clarify that this Japanese Beech is Fagus crenata, not Fagus japonica. So, don’t mix them up.

Japanese Beech
Scientific Name: Fagus crenata
Mature Height: Around 115 feet
Flowers Type: Small and inconspicuous
Fruit: 3-angled nut inside of a weakly spiny husk
Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
Lifespan: Nearly 400 years

14. Nikko Japanese Fir

Abies homolepis, recognized as Nikko Fir, is a fir that grows naturally in the mountains of central and southern Honshu and Shikoku in Japan.

Abies homolepis

It grows in temperate rain forests with high rainfall, cool, humid summers, and heavy winter snowfall at altitudes of 700–2,200 m.

Being a medium-sized to large evergreen coniferous tree, it can reach 100 to 120 feet high with a trunk of up to 5 feet in diameter.

The leaves are needle-like, flattened, 1.5–3.5 cm long, 2–3 mm broad by 0.5 mm thick, glossy green above and two white stomatal bands below, and rounded or slightly notched at the tip.

Nikko Japanese Fir leaves

The leaf pattern is spiral on the stem, but each leaf is variably twisted at the base, causing them to lie somewhat flattened to either side of and above the shoot, with a few below.

Shoots are yellow-buff in color, with a glabrous texture and prominent grooves.

Nikko Japanese Fir
Scientific Name: Abies homolepis
Japanese Name: Urajiro-momi
Mature Height: 100 to 120 ft
Trunk Diameter: 5 ft
Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
Lifespan: 60 years or more

15. Maximowicz Birch

Maximowicz Birch, whose scientific name is Betula maximowicziana, is a deciduous tree that grows naturally in the temperate forest of Japan.

They have fast-growing nature to around 45 ft under cultivation and 100 ft in their native habitat. Their leaves are alternating, simple, heart-shaped, and about 8 to 14 cm long.

Betula maximowicziana leaves

It’s a valuable timber tree in Japan but also grown as an ornamental for its bark in Europe, Japan, and a few places in North America.

Betula timber tree

The yellowish catkins that appear before the leaf shoots are the blooms. Male catkins are about 11 cm long, and female catkins are cylindrical, 6cm long. And the fruits are like small, winged nutlets.

Maximowicz Birch
Scientific Name: Betula maximowicziana
Mature Height: Around 100 ft
Mature Spread: Around 50 ft
Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
Lifespan: Above 40 years

Alright, we are finally at the edge of our writing. So, let’s conclude it here.

Conclusion

There are a number of trees native to Japan, and today I introduced you to some of them.

Hopefully, you had a great time exploring them individually. If you are planning to grow any of them, don’t forget to check whether their hardiness zone matches your region.

Thus, you will be able to know which one will be the most suited for your area.

Lastly, take care.

Frequently Asked Questions:

The wisteria tree in Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi is considered to be the prettiest tree in Japan.

It is about 150 years old, and when in full bloom, it looks stunning.

Basically, both of these trees are related and produce similar types of flowers.

But, cherry trees are grown for their delicious fruits, while cherry blossoms trees are grown for ornamental flowers, and neither can compete in the opposite category.