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Filicium decipiens, whose common name is Japanese Fern Tree, was given its name because of the large fern like leaves. (Although it is a puzzle where the "Japanese" part of the name came, from since the tree is native to India and Tropical East Africa.) The leaves are compound and very large. Each leaf consist of 12 to 16 leaflets. Each leaflet is 4 to 6 inches in length and relatively narrow. The result is a long leaf which has a remarkable resemblance to a fern.
This tree is extremely desirable for two reasons: First its symmetry is almost perfect, and second, the density of the leaves make it a great shade tree. The symmetry is natural, and requires virtually no trimming to maintain. The only trimming that a person may want to do is to remove some of the lower branches. The goal would be to create a space under the tree with enough height to place lawn chairs, allowing you to take advantage of the marvelous, cool shade the tree provides.
The Japanese Fern Tree is a fairly slow grower, reaching a top size of 35 feet by 35 feet. It is evergreen, and will tolerate almost any soil conditions. Moisture requirement are average, and it is draught tolerant after it becomes established. It is a tropical tree, which means it is cold sensitive. No problems have been observed at temperatures down to the low 30's. Anything lower than that will cause some frost damage. The flower is white, but very small and insignificant. The tree produces both male and female flowers. The fruits are olive size and form in clusters.
If you are looking for an interesting shade tree, this is it. On the other hand, it is also used as a tubbed tree since it is slow growing specimen. It can be wintered inside as long as a bright light source can be provided.