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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cupressus sempervirens - Italian Cypress

The classic Italian Cypress is a bit of puzzle to me. There is a popular cultivar called 'Stricta' which in the literature and most photos looks like a pencil while most descriptions suggest that they get much wider at the base with age. Hmm, how long is that? They live something like 400 years. Are most plants we see "older" specimens  of 'Stricta' or are they "younger" specimens of the species? 

This is listed on the Stanford tree inventory as 'Stricta'.





And this is listed as C. sempervirens.



So what is this? This seems to be what most of them look like.



The classic gardens in Italy, such as Boboli Garden in Florence and Villa Adriana outside of Rome, planted them over 400 years ago for the same reason we plant them now, they provided a strong vertical accent that allowed the designer to focus the viewers eye. At Boboli Gardens it was to make the garden visitor look towards the house.



At Villa Adriana they did the same but with fewer plants, just being the frame of the picture.




So, they are a fast growing narrow evergreen conifer, up to 60' or so, but not likely to be more than 25-30' around here. Width varies, sometimes 4-5 feet others 5-10. Here is a row at Mt Madonna.



Foliage is scale-like, medium green, very small and in pairs, lasting 3 or so years before falling and showing the brown stem.  The branch sprays are rounded and generally very held upright.



Reproductive structures are stroboli, forming cones when fertilized. Male are small, you can see them in the above picture at the tips of some of the branches. Females are also small, as seen below.



 Cones are woody, dry, oblong, about an inch, generally not longer, with peltate scales, soccer ball like.



Misidentifiaction: If you are looking at the plant, not likely to be missed,  but if you only have a twig, bummer. Determine it is a Cupressus, most have more or less rounded stems and most have the branchlets radiating out in all directions rather than flattened sprays. I did say most.

If its blue its the Arizona cypress, if the cones are larger than an inch it is likely the Monterey cypress, if its green, no cones and no plant to look at, punt.

Location:
Aptos
There is a nice planting at the corner of Alturas Way and Cabrillo College Drive on the north side of Park.

At the now closed Mt Madonna Inn at the top of Hecker Pass.

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