Herbs & Plants

Biota(Thuja orientalis)

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Botanical Name : Thuja orientalis
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Platycladus
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Species: P. orientalis
Synonyms:   Biota orientalis – (L.)Endl., Platycladus orientalis – (L.)Franco.,  Platycladus stricta – Spach.
Common Names : Platycladus orientalis, also known as Chinese Arborvitae or Biota.

Habitat : . It is native to northwestern China and widely naturalised elsewhere in Asia east to Korea and Japan, south to northern India, and west to northern Iran.  E. Asia – W. China, N. Korea. A small wild population is also found in N.E. Iran.  Steep dry rocky valley slopes .Woodland Garden; Canopy; Hedge;

It is a small, slow-growing tree, to 15-20 m tall and 0.5 m trunk diameter (exceptionally to 30 m tall and 2 m diameter in very old trees). The foliage forms in flat sprays with scale-like leaves 2-4 mm long. The cones are 15-25 mm long, green ripening brown in about 8 months from pollination, and have 6-12 thick scales arranged in opposite pairs. The seeds are 4-6 mm long, with no wing.

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Although generally accepted as only member of its genus, it has been suggested that the closely related species Microbiota decussata could be included in Platycladus, but this is not widely followed. Other fairly close relatives are the genera Juniperus and Cupressus, both of these genera being graft-compatible with Platycladus. In older texts, Platycladus was often included in Thuja, but it is only distantly related to that genus. Differences from Thuja include its distinct cones, wingless seeds, and its almost scentless foliage.

It is hardy to zone 6. It is in leaf all year, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution


Prefers a moist loamy soil . Grows best on dry freely draining sites, often alkaline in reaction. Does well over old building rubble. Tolerant of dry dusty sites and of atmospheric pollution in towns. Prefers a sunny sheltered position. Easily transplanted. There are many named varieties selected for their ornamental value. Produces seed freely in cultivation. A slow growing tree, it does not really thrive in Britain, especially in the western part of the country. The best specimens are to be found in towns or cities such as Oxford and very sharply drained soils in gardens. Plants cannot regenerate from old wood. Pruning is not normally necessary for this species, any pruning that is carried out should be done with care. Plants are susceptible to attacks by honey fungus. Plants are monoecious, male catkins being produced at the tips of branches and female cones at the base.

Seed – best sown when ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed germinates best if given a short cold stratification. It can then be sown in a cold frame in late winter. Plants make very little growth in their first year. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If there is sufficient seed it is worthwhile trying a sowing in an outdoor seed bed in April. Grow the plants on for at least two years before planting them out in the winter. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 – 8cm with a heel, July/August in a shaded frame. Forms roots by the end of September but should be overwintered in a frame. Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 5 – 10cm with a heel, September in a cold frame. Forms roots in the following summer. Plant out in autumn or spring.


There are some named forms for this species, but these have been developed for their ornamental value and not for their other uses. Unless you particularly require the special characteristics of any of these cultivars, we would generally recommend that you grow the natural species for its useful properties. We have, therefore, not listed the cultivars in this database.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed.

Seed – after removing the bitterness. No more details are given, but the bitterness in seeds is usually removed either by leaching them in water or by thoroughly cooking them.

Medicinal  Actions & Uses :

Antiasthmatic; Antibacterial; Antipyretic; Antitussive; Aperient; Astringent; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Emollient; Expectorant; Haemostatic; Lenitive; Parasiticide; Sedative; Skin; Stomachic.

This plant is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. Both the leaves and the seeds contain an essential oil consisting of borneol, bornyl acetate, thujone, camphor and sesquiterpenes. The leaves also contain rhodoxanthin, amentoflavone, quercetin, myricetin, carotene, xanthophyll and ascorbic acid. The leaves are antibacterial, antipyretic, antitussive, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, haemostatic, refrigerant and stomachic. Their use is said to improve the growth of hair. They are used internally in the treatment of coughs, haemorrhages, excessive menstruation, bronchitis, asthma, skin infections, mumps, bacterial dysentery, arthritic pain and premature baldness. The leaves are harvested for use as required and can be used fresh or dried. This remedy should not be prescribed to pregnant women. The seed is aperient, lenitive and sedative.   It is used internally in the treatment of palpitations, insomnia, nervous disorders and constipation in the elderly. The root bark is used in the treatment of burns and scalds. The stems are used in the treatment of coughs, colds, dysentery, rheumatism and parasitic skin diseases.

Other Uses
Dye; Hedge; Wood.

Tolerant of regular trimming, though not into old wood, it can be grown as a dense hedge. A yellow dye is obtained from the young branches. Wood – durable in the soil, moderately hard, close grained, rather coarse grained, light, soft, brittle. Used for construction, cabinet making, cooperage.

It is very widely used as an ornamental tree, both in its homeland, where it is associated with long life and vitality, and very widely elsewhere in temperate climates. The wood is used in Buddhist temples, both for construction work, and chipped, for incense burning.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


Thuja-orientalis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Known Hazards:   The leaves are toxic if eaten. The plant can also cause skin allergies in sensitive people.

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