Thujopsis dolabrata, commonly known as the Hiba tree, is a species of conifer belonging to the Cupressaceae family. This particular species is native to Japan and is commonly found in shaded habitats. Intolerant to drought, Thujopsis dolabrata especially requires moist soils during sunny seasons.
Thujopsis dolabrata can grow up to 40 metres in height, and 1.5 metres in diameter. The bark is reddish-brown in colour and is relatively thin. Additionally the bark peels off in long vertical strips due to its lack in thickness.
One of the most distinctive features of the Hiba tree is its scale-like leaves. On the adaxial side, leaves are green and glossy. On the abaxial side, leaves have conspicuous white bands which are made up of stomata. Since stomata are involved in gas exchange, being concentrated on the abaxial side of the leaf (away from direct sun exposure) minimizes water loss during transpiration. The way the leaves fan out is said to resemble the head of an axe. The scientific name of Hiba is derived from this observation, as the word dolabrata translates into ‘hatchet’. Thujopsis dolabrata is monoecious, with seed cones and pollen cones occurring on the same plant. Both types of cones grow terminal on branches, and do not exceed a few centimeters in length. Pollen cones are cylinder in shape, and bear 12-20 microsporophylls (fertile modified leaves where pollen initially develop). Seed cones are egg shaped and woody, releasing approximately 3-5 seeds at maturity.
Thujopsis dolabrata is used mainly for ornamental purposes. In Japan, it was once considered a sacred tree. Today, Thujopsis dolabrata can still be found as a decorative tree adorning the gardens of Japanese temples. The Hiba tree is not particularly known for its commercial value. However, due to the sturdiness of the wood, Thujopsis dolabrata can be used for construction on a small scale.
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