Chamaecyparis pisifera, commonly known as Sawara cypress, is a large, pyramidal, evergreen conifer that grows in the wild to 50-70’ (infrequently to 150') tall with a trunk diameter to 5'. In cultivation, it more typically matures to a much smaller 20-30' tall. It is naive to the Japanese islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Fine-textured medium green needles are tinted white beneath. Cones are small (1/4" across) and ornamentally insignificant, appearing glaucous green during summer before turning black-brown when ripe. Reddish brown bark peels in strips. Species plants are rarely sold in commerce, but a large number of more compact cultivars including some dwarfs are available for purchase.
Three well known forms of C. pisifera are: (1) C. pisifera f. filifera (threadbranch sawara cypress featuring drooping, whip or cord-like branches covered primarily with scale-like adult leaves), (2) C. pisifera f. plumosa (plume sawara cypress featuring feathery, airy and ferny branches covered with part adult/part juvenile leaves) and (3) C. pisifera f. squarrosa (moss sawara cypress featuring branches with soft, needle-like juvenile leaves).
Genus name comes from Greek chamai meaning dwarf or to the ground and kyparissos meaning cypress tree.
Specific epithet comes from the Latin word pissum meaing pea and ferre meaing to bear in reference to the very small rounded cones.
‘Filifera Aurea’ is noted for its drooping yellow foliage. This is a dense, semi-dwarf, evergreen shrub that typically grows as a broad cone. It is slow growing, often reaching only 6-7’ tall in 20 years, but may eventually reach 15-20’ tall in optimum conditions. Features golden, weeping, thread-like foliage that provides excellent texture and color to foundation plantings. Foliage is usually quite attractive in winter. Small cones appear only on mature plants. Peeling, reddish-brown bark develops on mature branches. This cultivar, as well as other Filifera cultivars, is also often commonly called threadleaf false cypress in recognition of the thread-like foliage.