A large, conical, deciduous tree. Trunk tapering from a buttressed base on old specimens. Bark initially red-brown but paling with age and peeling in thin strips. Branches ascending. Branchlets of 2 kinds; persistent, with short-stalked vegetative buds and few leaves; deciduous, opposite, with the leaves arranged in 2 ranks, flattened, feathery, c. 1.5 cm long, linear and slightly curved, turning yellow to red-brown in autumn before being shed together as a complete spray. Male cones cylindric, each c. 3 mm long arranged on drooping catkins. Female cones c. 2.5 cm wide, terminal, solitary and pendulous on short branchlets, ripening in the first year and consisting of c. 20-30 paired woody scales each with 5-8 seeds. Seed c. 5 mm long with two broad wings.
First discovered in Central China in 1945 before which it was only known previously through fossil remains. Known only from a single isolated population in a valley of Western C China on the Hubei-Sichuan border. Introduced to cultivation in 1947 it immediately became of world-wide importance and was soon available for cultivation in Australia, being grown in Canberra in 1947 and sold commercially in New South Wales by 1950. Seed sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne in Dec. 1947 had grown to 7 m tall trees within 14 years.
Similar to Taxodium from which it is distinguished by having opposite, not alternate, leaf sprays and leaves; leaves more than 1 mm wide; female cones with long stalks.
SA: Urrbrae (Waite Arboretum). NSW: Mt Tomah (Bot. Gds); Orange (Cook Park); Sydney (Royal Bot. Gds); Wagga Wagga (Bot. Gds, ptd Gough Whitlam 1963). ACT: C.S.I.R.O. Division of Forestry Res; Banks St (opposite forestry oval, an early original planting of 1947); Weston Park (SW corner grown from original introduction ptd 1947). VIC: Bogong (township by Lake); Kallista (Outside C.N.R. Office); Melbourne (Royal Bot. Gds, Eastern Lawn); Dandenongs ('Pirianda'); Parkville (Melbourne University Botany Department Systems Garden). TAS:Hobart (Royal Tasmanian Bot. Gds).
Source: (1995). Taxodiaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 1, Ferns, conifers & their allies. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.