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Featured Plant

Cupressus macrocarpa


Scientific Name: Cupressus macrocarpa

Common Names: Monterey Cypress

Family: Cupressaceae

Plant Type: Tree

Environment: Prefers cool temperatures and some extra watering. San Francisco's climate is optimal, particularly in Golden Gate Park.

Bloom: Salt and wind tolerant, prefer well drained soil; not tolerant of high heat and humidity. Monoecious; male cones are small, pale-yellow green; female cones are light green

Uses: Plant as an ornamental tree; will grow fast on well watered lawns

Other: Maximum observed age is 284 years, for more information go to The Gymnosperm Database or the Flora of North America.
Only two natural stands are known to exist in Monterey County, but it has been planted extensively throughout the world as a timber tree.



Cupressus macrocarpa

The tall Monterey Cypress that greets us on the front lawn when we enter the Gardens is a beloved symbol of an endangered species. It is native to Monterey County, California and grows in only two areas: Point Lobos and Cypress Point. Our Monterey cypress grows tall and straight because it is inland and away from the relentless ocean winds that shape the flat topped, wind-bent cypresses of Monterey. Fogs that bathe the Monterey forests and cool the air are essential to their well being. Monterey cypress that are planted in watered, protected areas away from the ocean grow bigger, taller and straighter.

The foliage consists of dense, dark green scale-like leaves that overlap, The bark is fibrous and stringy, and the cones globular and smooth, changing from green to brown as they mature. On a hot day you can hear the cones clicking open to release the seeds.

Golden Gate Park was created by the planting of Monterey cypresses, Monterey pines and blue gum Eucalyptus. Together, they formed a bulwark from the ocean winds and helped establish a kinder ecosystem for more delicate plants. These trees are nearing the end of their lifespan, and their absence is slowly changing the skyline silhouette of the park.

Monterey cypresses are planted as timber trees worldwide. In New Zealand they are planted as shelter trees for farms and can reach over 100 feet tall with 3-foot trunks because they are far removed from native pathogens that affect them in California.


Photos by Joanne Taylor; text by Kathy McNeil; profile by David Kruse-Pickler


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