When nature plays a joke

The western red cedar (Thuja plicata) is a fairly well known forest conifer – especially here in the PNW. This 150-200 foot tall tree is harvested for its richly scented wood often used in closets and chests. It also provides great lumber for home siding and fencing due to its natural resistance to rot. Beautiful as it is, it’s not very useful in today’s urban gardens. Fortunately for gardeners, there are some great cultivars of T. plicata that have been selected by plantsmen over the years. One of those is truly an oddity and when I see it I wonder about the mix up of genetic code needed to create something so unlike its parent.

Thuja plicata 'Whipcord'
A suprise seedling, 'Whipcord' is a great plant for the conifer garden.

 Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’ is quite an oddity with its dark green, thin, coarse, cord-like foliage and broad, mounding form. And even though it is not very much at all like its parent plant, this seedling found in a seedbed by the folks at Drakes Crossing Nursery, has characteristics similar to Chamacyparis pisifera var. filifera and its associated cultivars. Not only that, but there have been similar looking discoveries selected of Thuja occidentalis and T. orientalis (pladycladus).  I guess the joke’s on us!

Regardless of all the biology behind ‘Whipcord’, sometimes when nature plays a joke, we all get to benefit in the new selections of great conifers to include in our gardens!

Conifer Lover

Thanks to the Iseli folks for the photo links!

2 thoughts on “When nature plays a joke

  1. I absolutely love this plant; it’s so unique and interesting, having an appearance similar to that of an ornamental grass, yet maintaining the distinctive look of a conifer’s foliage…awesome. 🙂 Also, I have an unrelated question for you: At the top of this page (https://coniferlover.wordpress.com/2007/12/10/when-nature-plays-a-joke/#respond — just so there’s no mistaking the page I’m referring to, haha), there are five photographs of assorted conifers; I am simply struck by two of them, in particular–1) the one in the center (several purple cones), and 2) the pic to the far right (a single bluish cone)… Is there any way you could let me know the names of those two conifers??? It would be much appreciated!!


    1. Hi Shanna – Thank you for you comments. I’d be happy to let you know what those conifers are! Your first one, the photo in the center, is Pinus parviflora ‘Bergmanii’, a great dwarf Japanese white pine. It cones at a fairly young age and sets cones prolifically every year. Your second choice is rather rare, Abies forrestii var. forrestii.

      Funny you should mention the comparison to ornamental grasses – here’s a link to a past post.


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