Oriental Arborvitae or Biota - Platycladus orientalis

The Oriental Arborvitae tree or "Biota" (species name: Platycladus orientalis) is a common ornamental evergreen tree that is originally native to Northwest China. This tree used to be thought to belong to the "Thuja" genus but is not considered to be the only species in the genus "Platycladus".

This tree can be distiguished from other similar trees in the Juniper and Cypress families by the unique shape of its cones which appear to have a series of horn like scale tips that are curved. As can be appreciated in the pictures above and below the scale like leaves of the oriental arborvitae are not sharp and pointy like some of the Junipers that look similar.

Another distiction of this species is that its foliage gives off very little scent. The drawing below dates from 1870 (public domain) and was drawn by Philipp Franz von Siebold and Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini. In the name "oriental arborvitae" oriental refers to the fact that it is from China and arborvitae is latin for "tree of life" refering to the fact that this tree is slow growing and long lived.

The sign below from the University of Malaga botanical garden illustrates the fact that this tree is still classified by some as pertaining to the Thuja genus.

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