Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’ / Dragon’s Eye Japanese red pine

Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’ is a small, flat-topped, upright tree-form of Japanese red pine with species-typical branching and long, variegated needles, each having 2 bands of yellow alternating with the typical green. When viewed from the terminal bud, the effect is said to resemble the eye of a dragon. The Dragon Eye pine is said to burn from winter sun and icy winds in the midwest, while the variegation is much less evident in plants grown in the northwest regions of the U.S.

After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 10 feet (3 m) tall and 4.5 feet (1.5 m) wide, an annual growth rate of 12 inches (30 cm) or more.

This cultivar originated in Japan centuries ago. German botanist and collector, Heinrich Mayr first described it in 1890 through observation of plants he saw in Japan. In Japan, this conifer is known by the cultivar name, ‘Jano me.’ Based on the rules of nomenclature, this is the name that should be used. However, since ‘Oculus Draconis’ is so prevalent in the nursery trade, this is unlikely to ever change. In the Latin language, “oculus draconis” literally means, “eye of the dragon.”

Japanese Red Pine ‘Oculus-Draconis’

Category:

Trees

Conifers

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Foliage:

Grown for foliage

Evergreen

Good Fall Color

Foliage Color:

Chartreuse/Yellow

Height:

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

Spacing:

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 °C (-35 °F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us

Danger:

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

Inconspicuous/none

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

N/A

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

By grafting

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

West Friendship, Maryland

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Hendersonville, North Carolina

Saluda, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio

Galena, Ohio

Portland, Oregon

Lexington, Virginia

show all

Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’ was planted in the Azalea Meadow at Morris Arboretum in 2003.

Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss in 2018.

Contributed by Katherine Wagner-Reiss

Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’ is one of the more striking evergreens at Morris Arboretum. Pinus is the Latin name for a pine tree. Densiflora means densely flowered, a misnomer because pines reproduce, not by flowers, but by cones! While not botanically accurate, densiflora is probably an allusion to the densely clustered male and numerous female cones on these trees. The cultivar name ‘Oculus Draconis’ refers to the view from the reddish terminal bud surrounded by concentric layers of long, yellow and green variegated needles, which is said to look like the “eye of the dragon.” Its unofficial Japanese cultivar name ‘Jano-Me’ translates to “eye of the snake.” Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine is the common name because young bark has a reddish color.

This particular variegated pine has been cultivated in Japanese gardens for centuries. The variegation in the Dragon’s Eye Pine is a mutation wherein the yellow portions of the needle do not produce green chlorophyll, the chemical needed for the photosynthesis of sugars; thus yellow areas of the needle do not contribute to the plant’s energy needs. On the other hand, one positive aspect of variegated cultivars is that some pests may avoid the trees, perceiving them as abnormal or diseased.

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine- do you see the eye of the dragon?

Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss in 2018.

In addition to Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus- Draconis,’ Morris Arboretum has four other types of P. densiflora. Pinus densiflora is the straight species. Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’ is a beautiful multi-trunked cultivar valued for its umbrella-like crown. The hybrid Pinus densiflora x pinus thunbergia (named for botanist Pehr Thunberg 1743-1845) is a cross between the Japanese Red Pine and the Japanese Black Pine; the natural hybrid is considered to be a good omen in Japan. Pinus densiflora x ( densiflora x thunbergia) is a twice hybridized tree.

A dwarf cultivar named ‘Morris Arboretum W.B.’ is pictured on the . Despite its name, this cultivar is NOT a specimen at Morris Arboretum. According to Anthony Aiello, the Director of Horticulture, its provenance is not certain, but it may have been collected from a witches’ broom (a genetically altered branch) growing on a Pinus densiflora at Morris Arboretum.

So, there is a lot to entertain any budding botanist: reddish bark, dragon eyes, snake eyes, umbrellas and witches’ brooms. And you may be lucky enough to receive the added bonus of seeing the beauty of these pines enhanced by snow! You can find all tree locations on the maps found on the Collection Connection or in the Morris Arboretum Plant Catalogue.

Katherine has her Certificate in Botany from the New York Botanical Garden and is a botanical tour guide and free-lance writer.

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine foliage

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

* This is a “special order” plant – contact store for details

Height: 30 feet

Spread: 25 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Description:

One of the most unique plants you will ever encounter, a medium-sized tree which has needles with two prominent yellow bands; looking down at the branch tip gives the impression of an eye, quite a conversation piece; otherwise, an all-round nice tree

Ornamental Features

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine has attractive emerald green foliage with yellow stripes. The needles are highly ornamental and turn chartreuse in fall. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant. The shaggy brown bark is extremely showy and adds significant winter interest.

Landscape Attributes

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine is an evergreen tree with a strong central leader and a more or less rounded form. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance tree. When pruning is necessary, it is recommended to only trim back the new growth of the current season, other than to remove any dieback. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Shade

Planting & Growing

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine will grow to be about 30 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 25 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 3 feet from the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 80 years or more.

This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is not particular as to soil type, but has a definite preference for acidic soils. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

* This is a “special order” plant – contact store for details

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine foliage

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

* This is a “special order” plant – contact store for details

Height: 30 feet

Spread: 25 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Description:

One of the most unique plants you will ever encounter, a medium-sized tree which has needles with two prominent yellow bands; looking down at the branch tip gives the impression of an eye, quite a conversation piece; otherwise, an all-round nice tree

Ornamental Features

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine has attractive emerald green foliage with yellow stripes. The needles are highly ornamental and turn chartreuse in fall. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant. The shaggy brown bark is extremely showy and adds significant winter interest.

Landscape Attributes

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine is an evergreen tree with a strong central leader and a more or less rounded form. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance tree. When pruning is necessary, it is recommended to only trim back the new growth of the current season, other than to remove any dieback. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Shade

Planting & Growing

Dragon’s Eye Japanese Red Pine will grow to be about 30 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 25 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 3 feet from the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 80 years or more.

This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is not particular as to soil type, but has a definite preference for acidic soils. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

* This is a “special order” plant – contact store for details

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