Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey Cypress) - A beautiful wind-sculpted 40+ foot evergreen California native tree. As a young tree it is pyramidal but with age and wind it is transformed into its well-known striking and picturesque form. It has bark that is at first reddish brown then aging to gray with furrows with wide spreading branches holding scale-like dark green leaves that have a lemony fragrance. The rounded cones that form solitary or a few to a cluster are about 1 inch wide.
Plant in full sun and irrigate only occasionally. It is cold hardy to around 5 degrees F. Cupressus macrocarpa is considered to be a glacial relict that once has a wider range but now only grows naturally within a few hundred yards of the Pacific Ocean on the Monterey Peninsula and at Point Lobos. As such it does best in windy coastal areas, where it is less susceptible to Coryneum Canker (Seiridium cardinale), a bark killing fungus that has killed off many Monterey Cypress, Italian Cypress and Leyland Cypress. It has been speculated that coastal plantings are better because the salt laden coastal winds decreases the fungal spore viability.
The name for the genus comes from the Latin name for the Italian cypress tree Cupressus sempervirens and the name first published by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The common name "cypress" comes via the Old French cipres from the Latin cyparissus, which is the latinisation of the Greek kypárissos. In Greek mythology, Kyparissos was a boy beloved by Apollo who turns the boy into a cypress tree so his tears can fall forever after he accidentally kills his pet deer. The specific epithet comes from the Greek words 'makros' meaning "long" or "large" and 'karpos' meaning fruit in reference to this species large cones.
Recent genetic research has shown that the Western Hemisphere cypresses are a well-supported clade that are quite separate from the Eastern Hemisphere species and a new genus, Hesperocyparis, has been erected for the New World cypresses while the Old World plants retain the name Cupressus. The prefix "Hesper" is from the Greek word 'herperos' meaning "evening" or "the west" as this is where the sun sets. We are currently leaving this plant listed as Cupressus until this change becomes widely accepted.
Information about Cupressus macrocarpa displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.