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Last week I was given a tiny conifer(?) "dressed up" as miniature Christmas tree. Not a bonsai in the strict sense, rather a quite young evergreen species.

Of course it came without a label and with a bunch of decorations, it was wrapped in silvery wire both as decoration and to accentuate the cone shape. While I will keep the decorations on it for the moment (and loosened the wire), I would nevertheless love to know what I am dealing with. And of course find the right spot to plant it, if possible.

The tree is only 20cm / 8 in tall and has tiny needles that are not more than 6mm long. It has a slight resinous scent when brushed. Young growth (which seems to be the majority) is light to medium green, older parts darker. Compared to other conifers it seems very willing to branch out, but I can't know whether it was specially treated or has a natural tendency to do so. The leaves / needles are quite soft, not sharp or stiff at all. Branches are rather pliable.

the whole plant whole plant

the tip the tip

details detail

  • It looks to me like some sort of long leaf juniper. I am basing this on the green stems and the way the scale like leaves appear alternate around the stem rather than being opposite like many varieties of yew. – Escoce Dec 8 '15 at 14:28
  • Escoce, could you please explain more? I am not very good at conifer identification, but it looked like a yew to me. My identification guide says the needles should be arranged spirally around the stem, which these needles appear to be. What am I missing? – michelle Dec 8 '15 at 16:20
  • Well yew is a common name used to identify several species, however most "yew" that I have seen, the leaves are opposite (or maybe alternate) from each other on the same plane. – Escoce Dec 8 '15 at 18:12
  • Most likely to be a yew as that is fairly common and available. – kevinsky Dec 8 '15 at 18:25
  • @kevinsky Just to clarify: I'm in Europe. Doesn't say much about what's for sale, though... – Stephie Dec 8 '15 at 18:26
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Most sold decorated are generally for a large selling market. It is likely to be easily propagated and grown. It looks like Taxus baccata to me. Yew is used as hedging, evergreen, and all parts are poisonous. I say poisonous as it will make you very ill if eaten, but taxodium is derived from Taxus is used as a drug in the treatment of cancers. The flowers are insignificant but the red arils are poisonous, birds will eat the pip and leave the aril. The plant is thought to have been planted in Churchyards to ward off evil spirits to protect your dearly departed. Can live for centuries.

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I think you have a podocarpus. There is a long list of species, but macrophyllus or 'yew podocarpus' is the most common and there are a number of different varieties of it in commercial nursery production.

  • I've worked with podocarpus. All species have a prominent midline on the leaf which is raised and, sometimes, a lighter color than the rest of the leaf. Leaves are opposite each other on the stem tend to be rounded at the end, flat and somewhat waxy. They are not hardy outside in Germany and tend to be expensive when sold in North America.This leaves on this plant are short, alternate, pointed. – kevinsky Jan 1 '16 at 14:02

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