Wednesday, August 12, 2020

China Fir - Cunninghamia lanceolata

 China Fir - Cunninghamia lanceolata, is most easily identified by the long, stiff, sharply pointed leaves and oval cones of leather like sharply pointed bracts near twig tips.  The China Fir was introduced to the United States and is considered a distinct ornamental.  Native to Southeast Asia.  In China the China Fir is considered to be an important timber tree and is referred to as the China Fir, even though it is a member of the cypress family.  It is fast growing and highly resistant to pests and diseases. It is widely used for landscaping and has medicinal uses.

The China Fir is a Monoecious evergreen tree that can reach heights of 90 ft tall with and irregular cylindrical crown. The leaves are needle like deep green, stiff, straight or slightly curved 3-6 cm and spirally inserted on each twig.  It is in leaf all year, in flower from January to May, and the seeds ripen from August to September annually.  The twigs are covered by dead leaves behind 2 or 3 years of living leaf growth. The cones are ovoid, reddish brown at maturity, 1 1/2 - 4 1/2 cm and made up of glossy, leathery, sharply pointed bracts, occurring at twig tips in groups of 1-4.  The bark is dark gray to reddish brown in color and fissured to expose the aromatic inner bark.  Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling.

Image Citations (Photos 1, 2, & 3) : John Ruter, University of Georgia,

China Fir has many uses outside of just being planted as an ornamental specimen.  The bark is a source of tannins and the branches produce an essential oil that is used in the perfume industry. The creamy yellow to white, fragrant wood is uniform in textured, straight-grained, lightweight and durable, though it will rot if it is continually wet. It is easily worked, sometimes turned and resistant to insect and termite damage. It is also used in construction such as ship building (mainly throughout Asia where it is harvested for lumber) where great strength is required. A good quality fuel and a charcoal can also be made from the wood.

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