Picea maximowiczii Regel ex Mast.


Scattered populations on the main Japanese island of Honshu where logging and the conversion of native forest to commercial plantations are the main threats

Associated Names:



Japan, main islamnd of Honshu (Chichibu, Yatsugatake, Akaishi). The two varieties (var. maximowiczii and var. senanensis) are confined to small and scattered populations on Fuji-San and Yatsugatake Mountains.

Habitat and Ecology

Picea maximowiczii is a rare species of the high mountains in central Honshu, where it occurs at elevations between 1100m and 2000m above sea-level. The soils are derived from volcanic rock and usually podzolic. The climate is moist, with cool summers and cold winters, the annual precipitation ranges between 1000mm and 2000mm. It occurs in small, scattered groups, usually associated with Juniperus rigida, sometimes with Pinus densiflora and various broad-leaved trees, mostly in very open, grassy terrain. The variety senanensis has been found with Picea alcoquiana and P. koyamae (Hayashi, 1969, cited in Schmidt-Vogt, 1977).

Human Uses

This small bushy tree has little value for timber and is now protected from further exploitation. In Japan it is commonly planted in gardens, especially in Buddhist temple grounds, where it is valued for its dense habit and slow growth; these traits also make it a good but uncommon species for bonsai growing. Introductions to Europe and North America have mainly been of the var. senanensis, or perhaps involved hybrids between the two varieties. In European horticulture it is not a specially valued spruce and is mainly confined to arboreta and similar collections of planted trees.

Conservation Status

Global status

Endangered A2acde; B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v)

Global rationale

The assessment of the entire species follows that of var. maximowiczii which has been assessed as Endangered following recent over-exploitation and the conversion of Picea forests to plantation forests. There are some doubts about the taxonomic distinction of var. senanensis but even if it is distinct its population represents a very small part of the whole.

Global threats

Despite its bushy habit this spruce has been over-exploited and present populations are scattered and small. It is a slow grower and regeneration is often hampered by changes of land use that have caused habitat degeneration. Most trees are now situated in State Forests and would therefore enjoy some measure of protection. Over-exploitation of the tree and the habitat has occurred in the past. Much of the habitat remains degraded and regeneration is poor.

Conservation Actions

This species occurs mainly within a State Forest. Restoration programmes are needed.