Cupressi of California

Willis Linn JEPSON, The Trees of California, 1923, ed. 2, p. 75-79.



Monterey Cypress
Fig. 41a
     The Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa Hartw.) is a tree 15 to 60 feet high and grows only in two limited localities, Cypress Point and Point Lobos—the two headlands of the ocean shore at the mouth of the Carmel River near Monterey. The Cypress Point Grove extends along the cliffs and low bluffs from Pescadero Point to Cypress Point, a distance of two miles, reaching inland about one-eighth of a mile. The Point Lobos Grove is much smaller. The trees are scattered over the summits of these two headlands and cling to the edges of the cliffs, where on account of the erosive action of the ocean they are occasionally undermined and fall into the sea. Trees standing on the cliffs or exposed directly to the ocean exhibit much flattened or irregularly broken crowns and strongly flattened or board-like trunks or main branches.
     Some of the largest trees, such as the individual known as the Octopus Tree, are amazingly contorted. In protected situations, even a few yards to the leeward of contorted specimens, this species develops a crown which is broadly conical and very symmetrical with spreading finger-like tips to the main branches.

Fig. 41. a, MONTEREY CYPRESS (Cupressus macrocarpa Hartw.); cone-bearing branchlet, nat. size.
b, GOWEN CYPRESS (Cupressus goveniana Gord.), cone, nat. size; c, squarish branchlet, 8 times nat. size.

     The age of mature Monterey Cypress is about 50 to 300 years. There is no warrant for calling these trees one thousand or two thousand years old. Trees well-cared for in cultivation attain in twenty-five to thirty years the size and diameter of the larger trees at Cypress Point. The oldest tree whose age bas been definitely determined is 284 years.
     Monterey Cypress is most interesting for its remarkably restricted natural range and the exceedingly picturesque outlines characteristic of the trees growing on the ocean shore. As a result of their struggle with the violent storms from the Pacific Ocean which break on the unprotected cliffs and headlands of Cypress Point and Point Lobos, they present a variety and singularity of form which is obviously connected with their exposed habitat and lends a never-failing interest to these two narrow localities.
     Of the highly picturesque trees, the most common type is that with long irregular arms. Such trees recall strikingly the classical pictures of the Cedars of Lebanon. Monterey Cypress is of course a genuine cypress and Lebanon Cedar a genuine cedar; the two do not even belong to the same family of conifers. Yet the popular story that the two are the same makes so strong an appeal to the imagination of the tourists at Monterey that the guides and promoters in the region will doubtless never cease to disseminate it. As a consequence the error goes into the daily press and the magazines and is evidently destined to flourish in perennial greenness under the guise of fact. The wide dissemination of this fiction is all the more remarkable in that in the case of all other unique features of the State, such as the Sequoias and the Yosemites, our Californians have evinced a remarkable pride in their possession without thought of inventing a duplication of them elsewhere.
     Although so local a species in its natural habitat, Monterey Cypress takes most kindly to cultivation and to horticultural methods. It is widely cultivated in California for ornament, for wind-breaks and for hedges. While long-lived in coast gardens, trees planted in the dry interior valleys rarely live more than twenty-five years. As a cultivated tree Monterey Cypress has also been planted in various parts of Europe and also with especial success in Australia and New Zealand. Thus, while its natural range is narrower than that of any other member of the earth's silva known to us, its horticultural distribution is very wide and exceeds that of any other of our species except possibly the Monterey Pine.

Mendocino Cypress
     On the Mendocino pine flats near the ocean grows a small slender cypress which is often cane-like and bears cones when only 1 or 2 feet high. It is a very remarkable dwarf which was named Cupressus pygmaea Sarg. It is, however, in reality a dwarf form of a broad-crowned tree 25 to 75 feet high. which is scattered at intervals through the forest of Bishop Pine on the Mendocino coast.
     Gowen Cypress (Cupressus goveniana Gord.) is a compact dwarf growing almost in the center of the Monterey Pine forest at Monterey (Fig. 41 b, c).

McNab Cypress
Fig. 42c, d
     McNab Cypress (Cupressus macnabiana Murr.) is a shrub or small bushy tree 5 to 25 or sometimes 40 feet high with trunk ¼ to nearly 2 feet in diameter. The trunk bark is light gray and very smooth.
     Cupressus macnabiana inhabits dry slopes or flats in the foothills. It is distributed in scattered stations from central Napa County to Shasta County, and recurs in the northern Sierra foothills. It is distinguished by the highly pungent and somewhat aromatic odor of the foliage, by its blue-green crowns, and by the prominent horn-like crests on the summit of the cones.
     McNab Cypress was discovered by Murray and Beardsley in 1854 in Shasta County and was named in honor of James McNab, at that time Curator of the Edinburgh Botanic Garden.

Fig. 42. a, MODOC CYPRESS (Cupressus macnabiana var. bakeri Jepson), cone, nat. size.
b, SARGENT CYPRESS (Cupressus sargentii Jepson), cone, nat. size.
c, McNAB CYPRESS (Cupressus macnabiana Murr.), branchlet showing glandular pits on back of leaves, 6 times nat. size;
d, cone of McNAB CYPRESS, nat. size.

     Modoc Cypress (var. bakeri Jepson; fig. 42a) is a shrub 6 to 10 feet high or becoming a small tree up to 25 feet. The bark is red-brown and the branchlets very slender. It grows on the lava beds of southeastern Siskiyou and southwestern Modoc at 4000 feet altitude where it occurs in association with scrub Yellow Pine, Knob-cone Pine and Sierra Juniper.
     Piute Cypress (Cupressus nevadensis Abrams) is a small tree local on Piute Mountain, Kern County.

Sargent Cypress
Fig. 42b
     Sargent Cypress (Cupressus sargentii Jepson) is a shrub or small tree 5 to 12 feet high with grayish brown fibrous bark. It grows on mountain slopes and is distributed from Red Mountain (southern Mendocino County) to Mt. Tamalpais and southward to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Altitudinally it occurs chiefly between 2000 and 2300 feet. The Dutton Cypress (var. duttoni Jepson) occurs on Cedar Mountain in the Mt. Hamilton Range.