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Monterey Cypress
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Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress

The Lone Cypress near Monterey, California
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Cupressus macrocarpa

The Monterey Cypress Cupressus macrocarpa is a species of cypress endemic to the central coast of California. In the wild, the species is confined to two small populations, near Monterey and Carmel. These groves are protected, within Point Lobos Reserve and Del Monte Forest. The natural habitat is noted for its cool, humid summers, almost constantly bathed by sea fog.

It is a medium-sized evergreen tree, which often becomes irregular and flat-topped as a result of the strong winds that are typical of its native area. It grows to heights of around 10-20 m, and its trunk diameter reaches 0.6 m, rarely up to 1 m or more.

The foliage grows in dense sprays, bright green in colour. The leaves are scale-like, 2-5 mm long, and produced on rounded (not flattened) shoots. The seed cones are globose to oblong, 20-40 mm long, with 6-14 scales, green at first, maturing brown about 20-24 months after pollination. The male cones are 3-5 mm long, and release pollen in February-March.

Monterey Cypress has been widely cultivated away from its native range, both elsewhere along the California coast, and in other areas with similar cool summer, mild winter oceanic climates (e.g. Britain, western Oregon, New Zealand) as an ornamental tree, and occasionally as a timber tree. When growing in better conditions than it receives in the wild, it often grows much larger, with trees to over 40 m tall and 3 m diameter known. When planted in areas with hot summers (e.g. interior California away from the coastal fog belt), it has proved highly susceptible to cypress canker, caused by the fungus Seridium cardinale, and rarely survives more than a few years; this disease is not a problem where summers are cool.

Monterey Cypress is one of the parents of the fast growing cultivated hybrid Leyland Cypress, the other parent being Nootka Cypress.