Cypresses & Allies

Leyland Cypress Lawson's Cypress Leyland Cypress Sawara Cypress

What are they?

The cypress trees are generally distinguished by their foliage, which consists of a series of scale-like leaves, arranged in opposite pairs and completely overlapping the stem. This creates clusters of forked vegetation that somewhat resembles the growth style of clubmosses. In some species, the scale-like leaves broaden out to form fanned sprays, while in others, the scale-leaves are tight and create thread-like branchlets. Note that some junipers have scale-like leaves closely resembling those of cypresses, so they are included here for comparison.

Where are they found?

Most species are popular as ornamentals and are commonly found in churchyards, cemeteries and municipal open spaces. A few species are widespread in forestry plantations, shelterbelts and managed woodlands.

Identification

Details of the shape of the scale-like leaves and the presence or otherwise of white undersides to them is important. Cones can be very important, too and usually hang on the tree for much of the year, so can usually be found. All species are evergreen. Junipers with scale-like leaves differ from cypresses by their berry-like fruits.



Leyland Cypress      X Cuprocyparis leylandii

A hybrid that originated in cultivation as a chance seedling. The cross has been made many times since, producing a range of slightly different, named forms. Widespread and common in churchyards, parks, shelterbelts and woodland. Foliage variously upright to slightly pendulous, with leaves in flattened sprays. Leaves slightly glossy, green or blue-green with narrow white lines on the undersides; slightly tighter and a little less spreading than those of Lawson's Cypress. Female cones globular, in clusters that hang from the branches. Mature cones 15-20mm, splitting open from the centre, the scales with thickened tips. Bark dull reddish-brown, peeling off in broader fibres. Foliage has a hint of lemon smell to it.

Leyland Cypress Leyland Cypress Leyland Cypress Leyland Cypress
Habit
Leaves upperside
Leaves
Leaves
Leyland Cypress Leyland Cypress Leyland Cypress Leyland Cypress
Young cones
Mature cones
Mature cones
Bark


Western Red-cedar      Thuja plicata

Introduced from western North America. Widespread and common in churchyards, parks, shelterbelts and forestry plantations and readily self-seeds. Foliage typically rather pendulous, with leaves in flattened sprays; tip of tree stiffly upright. Leaves glossy, rich green with broad white patches on the undersides. Female cones cylindrical, in clusters that stand upright on the branches. Mature cones split open from the base in a rosette of flattened scales. Bark orange-brown, peeling off in narrow, stringy fibres. Foliage has a rich and fruity smell to it.

Western Red-cedar Western Red-cedar Western Red-cedar Western Red-cedar
Habit
Leaves upperside
Leaves underside
Seedling
Western Red-cedar Western Red-cedar Western Red-cedar
Young cones
Mature cones
Bark


Lawson's Cypress      Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Introduced from western North America. Widespread and common in churchyards, parks, shelterbelts and forestry plantations and readily self-seeds. Foliage variously upright or pendulous, with leaves in flattened sprays; tip of tree weeping. Leaves slightly glossy, green or blue-green with narrow white lines on the undersides. Female cones globular, in clusters that hang from the branches. Mature cones 7-9mm, splitting open from the centre, the scales with thickened tips. Bark purple-brown, peeling off in broader fibres. Foliage has a somewhat pungent smell to it. The male flowers are bright red and can be very showy early in the year. There are many cultivated varieties of this tree, including golden-leaved forms.

Lawson's Cypress Lawson's Cypress Lawson's Cypress Lawson's Cypress
Habit
Leaves upperside
Leaves underside
Male flowers
Lawson's Cypress Lawson's Cypress Lawson's Cypress
Young cones
Mature cones
Bark


Ellwood's Cypress      Chamaecyparis lawsoniana cultivar 'Ellwoodii'

Introduced from western North America. Widespread and common in churchyards, parks and other municipal areas. There are many cultivated varieties of Lawson's Cypress and this is just one of the commoner and more distinctive ones. Plants form narrow, upright columns of very dense foliage. The foliage is blue-green and more prickly-tipped than typical Lawson's Cypress leaves and held tightly upright.

Ellwood's Cypress Ellwood's Cypress
Habit
Leaves


Sawara Cypress      Chamaecyparis pisifera

Introduced from Japan. Widespread and frequent in churchyards, parks and similar municipal areas. Foliage on the typical species is rather stiff and spiky compared with other cypresses, with leaves in flattened sprays. Leaves slightly glossy, green with narrow white lines on the undersides. Female cones globular, smaller than those of Lawson's Cypress (5-6mm) in small clusters that hang from the branches. Mature cones split open from the centre and the scales have thickened tips. Bark orange-brown, peeling off in broader fibres. There are many cultivated forms of this tree, including golden, blue and filiform varieties, many of which bear little resemblance to the original parent tree.

Sawara Cypress Sawara Cypress Sawara Cypress Sawara Cypress
Habit
Habit
Leaves
Leaves
Sawara Cypress Sawara Cypress Sawara Cypress Sawara Cypress
Mature cones
Bark
cultivar 'Filifera'
cultivar 'Boulevard'


Chinese Thuja      Platycladus orientalis

Introduced from Eastern Asia. Frequent in churchyards and parks as an ornamental. Branches are held very distinctively upright in flattened sprays. Leaves light green on both sides, sometimes with a little whitish resin attached but without obvious white undersides. Female cones cylindrical, standing upright on the branches and with recurved tips to the scales when young. Mature cones split open from the base in a rosette of flattened scales. Bark light brown, peeling off in narrow, stringy fibres. Foliage is more or less scentless.

Chinese Thuja Chinese Thuja Chinese Thuja
Habit
Leaves
Leaves
Chinese Thuja Chinese Thuja Chinese Thuja
Young cones
Mature cones
Bark (discoloured by green algae)


Monterey Cypress      Cupressus macrocarpa

Introduced from western North America. Widespread in churchyards, parks, and occasionally in shelterbelts and hedges, especially near the coast due to its salt tolerance. A variable tree tat may be single-trunked or multi-stemmed. Foliage dense and dark, with leaves not flattened but producing spreading, three-dimensional sprays. Female cones cylindrical, dark brown, 20-35mm, in clusters held close to the branches. Bark light grey-brown.

Monterey Cypress Monterey Cypress Monterey Cypress Monterey Cypress
Habit
Leaves
Leaves
Male flowers
Monterey Cypress Monterey Cypress Monterey Cypress Monterey Cypress
Young cones
Mature cones
Bark
Bark


Italian Cypress      Cupressus sempervirens

Introduced from southern Europe. Rare in our region and not fully hardy in the UK. Foliage and cones very similar to Monterey Cypress. There are two growth forms, the most usual in cultivation being the narrow and strictly upright form.

Italian Cypress Italian Cypress Italian Cypress
Habit (2 forms)
Cones
Cones


Chinese Juniper      Juniperus chinensis

Introduced from eastern Asia. Widespread and frequent in churchyards, parks and municipal plantings. Although Chinese Juniper can form an upright tree, tihs species is most often seen as a variety of semi-prostrate, cultivated varieties. Foliage carried on ascending, spreading branches, with leaves in three-dimentional sprays. Leaves dull grey-green or blue-green and densely overlapping. Fruit a typical, blue-grey, juniper berry.

Chinese Juniper Chinese Juniper Chinese Juniper Chinese Juniper
Habit
Habit
Leaves
Leaves
Chinese Juniper Chinese Juniper
Leaves
Ripe fruit


Californian Incense-cedar      Calocedrus decurrens

Introduced from western North America. Rare in churchyards, parks and municipal open spaces. A columnar tree with glossy, richly emerald-green foliage. Scale-like leaves tightly packed into narrow strands, grouped into flat, fan-like sprays. Female cones cylindrical, 10-20mm, in pendulous clusters.

Californian Incense-cedar Californian Incense-cedar Californian Incense-cedar
Habit
Leaves
Leaves
Californian Incense-cedar Californian Incense-cedar
Male flowers
Young cones


Hiba      Thujopsis dolabrata

Introduced from Japan. Rareas an ornamental in churchyards, parks and municipal open spaces. A small, columnar tree with highly glossy, richly emerald-green foliage. Broad, spreading, scale-like leaves have large and showing white patches on their undersides. Female cones 8-15mm, borne singly at the branch tips.

Hiba Hiba Hiba Hiba
Habit
Leaves upperside
Leaves upperside
Leaves underside
Hiba Hiba Hiba
Leaves underside
Male flowers
Cone


Giant Sequoia      Sequoiadendron giganteum

Introduced from western North America. Widespread in parks and private estates. Eventually an enormous tree, to 50m in height (much more in its native habitat). Foliage in spreading sprays. Scale-like leaves dark green with long-pointed tips. Female cones much larger than others in this group, 45-80mm long. Bark orange-brown, densely fibrous and soft to the touch.

Giant Sequoia Giant Sequoia Giant Sequoia Giant Sequoia
Habit
Leaves
Leaves
Leaves
Giant Sequoia Giant Sequoia Giant Sequoia Giant Sequoia
Male flowers
Cone
Cone
Bark