Sakaki Plant Information

Sakaki grows in the following 1 states:


Cleyera japonica (sakaki) is a flowering evergreen tree native to warm areas of Japan, Taiwan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and northern India. It can reach a height of 10 m. The leaves are 6-10cm long, smooth, oval, leathery, shiny and dark green above, yellowish-green below, with deep furrows for the leaf stem. The bark is dark reddish brown and smooth. The small, scented, cream-white flowers open in early summer, and are followed later by berries which start red and turn black when ripe. Sakaki is one of the common trees in the second layer of the evergreen oak forests. It is considered sacred to Japanese Shint faith, and is one of the classical offerings at Shint shrines.

Sakaki wood is used for making utensils (especially combs), building materials, and fuel. It is commonly planted in gardens, parks, and shrines.
Sakaki is considered a sacred tree in the Shinto religion, along with other evergreens such as hinoki ( "Japanese cypress"), and kansugi ( "sacred cryptomeria"). Shinto shrines are traditionally encircled with Shinboku "sacred trees". In Shinto ritual offerings to the kami "gods; spirits", branches of sakaki are decorated with (shide) paper streamers to make tamagushi.
The Japanese word sakaki is written with a kanji character that combines ki "tree; wood" and kami "spirit; god", depicting "sacred tree; divine tree". The lexicographer Michael Carr notes,
Sakaki first appears in the (12th century) Konjaku Monogatarish, but two 8th-century transcriptions are "sage tree" (Kojiki, tr. Chamberlain 1981:64 "pulling up by pulling its roots a true cleyera japonica with five hundred [branches] from the Heavenly Mount Kagu") and "slope tree" (Nihon Shoki, tr. Aston 1896:42-43, "True Sakaki tree of the Heavenly Mt. Kagu"). Sakaki or is the title of Chapter 10 in The Tale of Genji (ca. 1021). It comes from this context.
The etymology of sakaki is uncertain. With linguistic consensus that the -ki suffix denotes "tree", the two most probable etymologies are either sakae-ki "evergreen tree" (from sakae "flourishing; luxuriant; prosperous") or sakai-ki "boundary tree" (from sakai "boundary; border"). Carr (1995:13) cites Japanese tradition and historical phonology to support the latter etymon. [In reconstructed Old Japanese, sakaki < sakak and sakai "boundary" were "monograde" () while sakae "flourishing" was "bigrade" ().

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