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A Swirlingly Seductive Cultivar of the Japanese Cedar

'Spiralis', a stunning cultivar of the Japanese cedar, with incurved, light green foliage.

Twirling, spinning, swirling—the foliage of Cryptomeria japonica ‘Spiralis’ brings rich texture and color into the garden. The unique way the incurved needles twist around the branchlets give this selection its familiar nickname “granny’s ringlets” and render it unmistakable from any other cultivar of the Japanese cedar.

Almost unmistakable, that is! It appears there are two clones grown under the cultivar name ‘Spiralis’: one a compact shrub and the other a tree, and it has been suggested that the former is a witches’ broom (or structural mutation) of the latter. The tree form reaches 25 to 40 feet in height, with a dense, conical, almost formal habit, and lush foliage from the apex to the ground.

While the wonderful texture can be appreciated in any month, the light, luminous green of the foliage is an especially welcome and warming sight during the shortest days of the year. A lovely specimen—indeed the only one in the Arboretum—can be seen on a short walk south of the Graham Visitor Center, just west of the Pat Calvert Greenhouse. It is one of the Arboretum’s many state champion trees!

—Randall Hitchin, Arboretum Foundation.