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Haverford College
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Arboretum: Cunninghamia lanceolata, Chinafir

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November 2012

Cunninghamia lanceolata is a regal evergreen conifer best suited for botanical gardens and arboreta, rather than the home landscape. The needles are broad and quite sharp, while the branches have a tendency to turn brown and drop. The tree is named in honor of James Cunningham, the first European plant explorer to visit China, who discovered it in 1701.

The tree will reach heights of 30 to 60 feet in cultivation and upwards of 100 feet in native stands. The wood is highly prized in China and rivals bamboo in its usefulness for all-around work. It is light weight, soft and fragrant. Interestingly, the wood is largely used for coffin making, but also for house building, indoor carpentry, ship masts and box making.

A “cousin” to our native Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, Cunninghamia is in the Taxodiacae Family.


Martha Van Artsdalen