The Blue Arizona Cypress Cupressus Arizonica

The Latin name for the Arizona Blue Cypress tree is Cupressus arizonica fastigiata. It is an evergreen, coniferous tree that grows up to between 33 and 88 feet (10 to 25 meters). This is considered medium height. Its scale-like leaves range in color from dull gray-green to a vibrant blue-green. The leaves are between 2 and 5 mm in length.

The heights reached by C. Arizonica lend it well to growing several specimens in a row to provide a screen of privacy between neighbors. This is a common arrangement in many gardens. It can also be grown in containers to restrain its growth and prune into creative topiary shapes. It is not uncommon to see the Arizona Cypress tree grown in the shape of pom poms (spheres) or spiral shapes. It has also taken the form of small animals such as the rabbit.

The oblong cones of C. Arizonica mature from a bright green to a brownish-gray within two years of pollination. This takes place during February and March. The cones do not open unless they are exposed to fire. Opening under this stimulus, seeds are dispersed on the bare ground cleared by the fire. This allows the trees to re-colonize.

The Arizona cypress is simple to grow. It tolerates a neutral to alkaline pH (7 to 8.5). It grows best in soil conditions of low fertility. The substrates in which it is able to grow include sand, sandy loam, loamy sand, clay, silty clay, sandy clay, clay loam, sandy clay loam, silty loam, sandy clay loam and silty clay loam.

C. Arizonicus fastigiata is moderately tolerant to drought conditions. It needs a moderate amount of water. It needs at least 160 days a year that are free from frost.

The blue cypress grows well in any area of the garden. It prefers soil that is not wet or thin and chalky. It is hardier than its cousin, C. Sempivirens. Tying older specimens in place to retain their columnar shape helps them to resist damage from the harsh conditions of winter.

The blue cypress is native to parts of Mexico (Zacatecus, Coahuila, Tamaulpas, Chihuahua, Durango and Baja California) and southwestern America (Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California). It grows near California Fan Palm and the Canyon Live Oak in the San Pedro Martir forests of pine and oak trees.

Cupressus arizonica has been found in the San Louis Mountains, at low elevations on the border between Mexico and Arizona. The mountains trend northwest to southeast for eight to ten miles. The San Luis Mountains border the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge near Arivaca Lake. The blue cypress is also found in the Animas Mountains, a small range in the ‘Boot Heel’ area of New Mexico in Hidalgo County. These mountains run in a north-south orientation along the Great Divide (also called the Continental Divide). The Great Divide is a physical, hydrological divide that intervenes between the watersheds draining into the Pacific Ocean from those that drain into the Pacific Ocean. This feature is prominent among other similar divides because it follows the line of high peaks in the Rocky Mountain and Andes Mountain ranges.

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