Microbiota decussata - Siberian or Russian cypress (or arborvitae)

This is a low loose-growing, many-branched coniferous shrub with somewhat drooping branch tips. The leaves are small and scale-like, growing tight to the stems like the other arborvitae and some junipers. The round cones are extremely small, about the size of a pin head.

The Siberian cypress is the only species in the genus Microbiota, which belongs to the cypress family (Cupressaceae). It is native to the Russian Far East, where it grows on the steep gravelly slopes and upper plateaus of the Sihote-Alin Mountains, above the tree line, often together with the dwarf Siberian pine (also called Japanese stone pine, Pinus pumila). These areas often have extreme winters with no snow cover. The coppery brown winter foliage is part of the plant’s survival strategy in these conditions, where the temperatures can go down to -40C. The leaves regain their dark green colour in the spring.

Siberian cypress is fairly new in gardens. It was first brought to Finland in 1973, and the first specimens are still growing on Mustila’s Terassi (Terrace) – or at least some of them are, because a few were stolen almost as soon as they were planted. From the 1980s onwards the species has been planted more generally, not surprisingly. It is attractive, easy to care for and extremely hardy, thriving in all kinds of conditions. Because it is so low and multi-branched it is extremely useful for ground cover.


Microbiota decussata ©Jaakko