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Cupressus arizonica Greene

Arizona Cypress

Modern name

Cupressus arizonica Greene


C. arizonica var. bonita Lemm.

A tree to 75 ft in the wild state (sometimes taller in favoured localities); bark on young trees red, smooth, peeling in thin flakes, on mature trees dark brown, furrowed and fibrous. Leaves closely overlapping and scale-like, pale green to grey-green, more rarely blue-green, acutely pointed, about 116 in. long; resin-pits usually inconspicuous and inactive. Branchlets irregularly arranged, the final subdivisions four-sided, 120 in. in diameter. Cones short-stalked, globose, 34 to 1 in. in diameter, glaucous; scales six (rarely eight), slightly rising towards the middle, where there is a pyramidal, pointed boss.

Native of the S.W. United States and N. Mexico (where it may intergrade with the closely allied C. lusitanica); discovered by Greene in 1880 in S.E. Arizona and also found in S.W. New Mexico. Most of the trees cultivated in Europe as C. arizonica or “var. bonita” belong to the following species, which is a close ally and not recognised by all authorities:

C. glabra Sudw. C. arizonica var. bonita Hort. and of many authors, not Lemm. – This species occupies parts of Arizona well to the west of C. arizonica, from Coconino Co. to the Mazatzal Mountains in Gila Co. It is a dense, bushy tree growing 45 to 60 ft high in the wild state, with a spreading crown and often lacking a central leader. The bark remains reddish, thin and smooth even on mature trees, and is shed in thin strips or plates (but becomes close on very old trees). The leaves are much greyer on the average than in C. arizonica, with conspicuous resin-secreting glands on the back. Some trees are strongly glaucous, especially when young and vigorous. The cones are usually larger than in C. arizonica and the seeds glaucous.

Many botanists have identified C. glabra with C. arizonica var. bonita Lemm., but C. B. Wolf has pointed out this variety differs in no respect from typical C. arizonica.

Owing to the confusion between the two species described above, the date of introduction of neither is known for certain. The seed sent by the Arnold Arboretum in 1882 is said to have been C. arizonica but may equally well have been C. glabra, which was described many years later. But the seed distributed by Purpus around 1890 was apparently collected in New Mexico, well within the range of C. arizonica. The trees cultivated in this country (most of which are probably C. glabra) are quite hardy and have reached heights of 60 to 75 ft and girths of 334 to 5 ft.

The beautiful form of the Arizona cypress so common in Italian gardens is usually known as C. arizonica conica (or pyramidalis). It is of narrowly conical habit, with blue-glaucous leaves. Although said to be tender in Central Europe it appears to be quite hardy in this country.

C. stephensonii C. B. Wolf – This rare species is allied to C. glabra but is less glandular and with smaller leaves (about 125 in. long). Confined to a small area in San Diego Co., California, and known as the Cuyamaca cypress.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Borde Hill, Sussex, by Kitchen Garden, 62 × 434 ft (1978); Exbury, Hants, 65 × 534 ft (1978); Westonbirt House, Glos., a fine tree, 72 × 512 ft (1982); Hergest Croft, Heref., in Park Wood, 66 × 512 ft (1978); Alton Towers, Staffs., 56 × 712 ft at 1 ft (1974); Stanage Park, Powys, 66 × 6 ft (1980); Mount Usher, C. Wicklow, Eire, 62 × 634 ft (1975); Avondale, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 82 × 734 ft (1980).

C. glabra. – This species is distinguished from C. arizonica not only by its grey or silvery glaucous foliage, but also by its blistering and flaking bark, which in its relative is stringy. It is interesting that early this century Elwes and Henry mentioned glaucous-leaved forms of C. arizonica growing in France (Angers and Montpelier) and in Italy (Rovelli’s nursery at Pallanza). These were almost certainly C. glabra, but they knew of no similar trees in Britain. C. glabra is very hardy, and also drought-resistant.

specimens: Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden, Wisley, Surrey, 72 × 512 ft (1983); Exbury, Hants, 68 × 514 ft (1978); Stratford Park, Glos., 75 × 414 ft (1984); Bath Road, Cheltenham, Glos., 56 × 514 ft (1979); Royal Victoria Park, Bath, 79 × 534 ft (1984); Henrietta Park, Bath, 68 × 414 ft (1981); Leighton Hall, Powys, 60 × 512 ft (1984); Bulkeley Mill, Gwyn., 62 × 714 ft (1984); Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 80 × 712 ft (1980).

The clones ‘Conica’ and ‘Pyramidalis’, although similar, are not identical. The latter is somewhat broader than the former, and more silvery glaucous. Of neither has the history been ascertained. The cultivar-name ‘Pyramidalis’ apparently starts in the Hillier catalogue for 1928. The Dutch dendrologist den Ouden mentions ‘Conica’ in a work on conifers published in 1949, but the name was current in the trade (as C. arizonica conica). It was probably first distributed by a French or Italian nursery. To complicate matters, there is also ‘Glauca’, described in 1916 as being of conical habit, with juvenile, glaucous blue foliage.

In Britain, the commonest clone by far is ‘Pyramidalis’, of which the following examples have been recorded: University Botanic Garden, Cambridge, pl. 1937, 50 × 314 ft (1982); Silwood Park, Berks., 46 × 334 ft (1982); Brynderwyn, Powys, pl. 1936, 52 × 412 ft (1977); Cathays Park, Cardiff, 50 × 412 ft (1980).



Other species in the genus