The umbrella pine is a true living fossil which has been identified in Triassic strata, i.e the era of the dinosaurs. At that time the species was found throughout Europe but later other species took over its native habitat. Nowadays umbrella pine is an endangered species, only growing in a restricted area in central Japan.
Umbrella pine doesn’t much resemble any of the conifers we are familiar with and it has no living close relations. The needles look like pairs that have become fused together, curving out from the tips of the shoots like the ribs of an umbrella, hence the common name. It is extremely slow-growing, only about 20 centimetres a year, but in its native habitat can reach mid-sized tree dimensions (ca.20m).
In Japan this tree is highly valued, often being planted around temples. According to legend the tree at the Jingui Temple planted in 1300 blesses any woman touching it with healthy children. In Finland the species is rare, but recent plantings have thrived surprisingly well in protected spots such as Mustila’s Terassi (Terrace), but the next severe winter will probably destroy unprotected specimens.