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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cupressus sempervirens 'Stricta' - Italian Cypress

The Italian Cypress is a narrow, upright, tight growing tree that's been planted in gardens for hundreds of years.  This is a popular cultivar 'Stricta', one of several upright very narrow forms available in the trade. Trees are used to direct the eye in formal landscapes. Trees grow 20-40' tall x 3' wide, narrowing to a point at the top. I have seen them used as hedges, but its a lot of trees and they don't spread very widely, I think I would choose the species for that use. Gilman and Watson called them green telephone poles. I have seen them called Pencil Pines, but I don't think that's a popular common name around here.

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

Reproductive structures are stroboli. 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. Saw a website that called the cones "Ugly Nuts".

The taxonomy on this plant confuses me. Is there really a 'Stricta' cultivar? I have seen 'Glauca' used, and we have a 'Swains Golden' in the backyard of a neighbor but I am not sure what to make of the classic Italian cypress. Cal Poly suggests this is a naturally occurring botanical variety and should be called Cupressus sempervirens var. stricta

The specific epithet sempervirens means evergreen. All Cupressus are evergreen. Seems odd.

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. Differs from the species by being much more narrow.

114 Eureka Canyon Rd, as seen in the top picture.

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