Tree of the Month – ‘Thunderhead’ Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’)
Posted: December 19, 2012
This compact selection of Japanese black pine tops out at 15-20 feet tall, considerably smaller than the straight species. Its smaller size and durable nature make it useful for modern landscapes. It can be planted as a focal point, or as a screen or natural hedge. The straight species is native to coastal regions of Japan, where the trees are sculpted by the wind into dramatic and beautiful forms.
This conifer sports long silvery buds that are held in dramatic contrast to the dark green needles, creating interest through the winter. ‘Thunderhead’s’ growth habit may be upright to irregularly spreading – no two are alike! It may grow wider than tall, with an irregular, mounding habit that makes it appear to grow like a building storm cloud.
Best growth occurs in full sun and well-drained soil. Drought tolerant once established, ‘Thunderhead’ is also tolerant of road salt spray. It should be watered during hot, dry weather when first planted to establish a healthy, well-rooted plant, and during extended dry periods thereafter. It can be allowed to grow naturally or sculpted into a bonsai.
‘Thunderhead’ grows 15-20 feet tall with greater spread and is hardy to USDA Zone 6.
Article information: Sandy Feather, Extension Educator, Allegheny Co.