There have been a number of very attractive cultivars developed from the Cupressus macrocarpa. Goldcrest (Monterey cypress) is one of these. Monterey cypress or macrocarpa are common names for this cypress. These were endemic to the Californian coast but now only two patches remain of what were once large forests. These areas are Monterey and Carmel, in California. Cupressus macrocarpa is one of the New World cypresses. These are now being reclassified as Callitropsis macrocarpa.
What was once an extensive forest on the west coast has been reduced to two small groves. One is in the Point Lobos State Reserve and the other is the Del Monte Forest. Some of the trees here are over 2,000 years old. Cool, humid summers are a feature of these areas as is constant fog from the sea.
The Cupressus macrocarpa is now widespread through many of the Mediterranean countries as well as in Great Britain and Ireland. It also grows in western Oregon. It now grows wild in New Zealand and has many admirers. Experimental plantations have been planted in Kenya with a view to it becoming used as a timber crop. It is a popular specimen tree in its native California where it is grown in both domestic and public gardens.
The remnants of the cypress forests in California have been sculpted by the wind, making the boughs and trunks twisted and gnarled. The trees are flat-topped and stunted with widely spreading crowns. When conditions are ideal, the trees can reach 40 meters with diameters of over 2.5 meters. The foliage is bright green and the bark is rough and fibrous.
This is a versatile tree. It is often planted in belts and rows to provide shelter and windbreaks. The leaves have been known to cause abortion in cattle. Boat builders, furniture makers and woodworkers admire it for its color. Some of the largest examples are seen in New Zealand where the tree does not have to contend with native diseases. It is highly regarded as an ornamental specimen. It burns well when used as firewood but creates a lot of sparks.
Cypress canker, a fungal disease, often affects this tree in areas with hot summers. It prefers oceanic regions and cool summers. In its native areas, the cypress propagates itself when wildfires cause the cones to burst open thus dispersing the seeds. Summer days may be hot enough to burst the cones. Because regeneration is low in the Point Lobos region, fire treatment is being considered.
Garden enthusiasts have developed a number of cultivars. Some of these are grown for their foliage and others for their shape. The Royal Horticultural Society has granted the cultivar Goldcrest the Award of Golden Merit. Lutea is another which has similar yellow-green foliage.
If you are looking for a conical shape, Brunniana aurea would be suitable. Gold Rocket has a narrow, erect shape while Greenstead Magnificent is a dwarf form with blue-green foliage. For areas with suspect climatic conditions and poor soil, Lambertiana aurea is hardy and tough. Aurea saligna has a weeping habit with long cascading branches. For an attractive specimen tree, it would be hard to better Cupressus macrocarpa.