The Versatile And Attractive Cupressus Macrocarpa

Cupressus macrocarpa is probably more commonly known as macrocarpa or Monterey cypress. Goldcrest (Monterey cypress) is one of the striking cultivars developed from Cupressus macrocarpa. There are remnant endemic forests at Carmel and Monterey in California. Forests of the macrocarpa once stretched down the west coast. It is one of the New World cypresses. These are now being reclassified and renamed as Callitropsis macrocarpa.

Although the trees once flourished right down the Californian coast, they are now restricted to two small areas. One is an area in Point Lobos State Reserve. The Del Monte Forest also contains ancient cypress trees. Some of these are estimated at over 2,000 years old. Climatic conditions in these areas include constant fog which comes in off the ocean and cool but humid summers.

IN the United States, the Monterey cypress is also found in western Oregon. It has firmly established itself in New Zealand to the point of becoming naturalized. Great Britain, Ireland and countries around the Mediterranean are also home to this tree. In Kenya it is being trialled as a timber crop. There are many specimens grown along the coast of California where it is just as popular in public parks as it is in suburban gardens.

The ancient coastal trees have gnarled, twisted trunks. They are stunted and flat-topped with wide, spreading crowns. In areas more suited to their culture, heights of 40 meters are not uncommon and diameters may reach nearly 3 meters. They have rough, fibrous bark and bright green foliage carried in dense sprays.

The cypress has a number of uses. It makes a good windbreak and shelter tree when grown in belts or rows. In New Zealand the timber is used for fence posts. An absence of native diseases in New Zealand gives rise to some of the largest specimens. The leaves have a slight toxicity to livestock and can cause abortion in cattle. Craftspeople, boat builders and furniture makers have high regard for the attractive grain and color of the timber. As an ornamental tree it has few peers. As firewood, it burns well and produces good heat. However it is not a good choice for open fires as it produces a lot of sparks.

The ideal environment will be near the coast in areas with cool summers. Hot summers often result in an outbreak of cypress canker. This fungal disease causes the trees to die after a few years. Under natural conditions, the cones open and disperse their seeds during periods of fire although hot summer days sometimes cause the cones to burst. In Point Lobos, treatment with fire is being considered as regeneration is very low.

There are a number of attractive cultivars. Lutea and Goldcrest are both highly regarded for their yellow-green foliage. The latter has been awarded the Award of Golden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Cultivars may have slightly different forms. Brunniana aurea is conical while Gold Rocket is narrow and erect. A dwarf form is Greenstead Magnificent which has blue-green foliage. Lambertiana aurea is a hardy variety which will grow in poor soil and less than ideal climatic regions. Aurea saligna has long cascades of weeping branches. Cupressus macrocarpa has a number of attractive features.

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