A tree up to 100 ft high in the wild and almost as high in the British Isles, with wide-spreading branches and pendulous spray; the branching not two ranked, but spiral and irregular. Branchlets four-sided. Leaves in four rows, scale-like, 1⁄16 to 1⁄12 in. long, with the terminal part elongated, triangular, finely and sharply pointed, free at the tip. Cones very glaucous, and about the size of peas the first year; scales six or eight, with a conical, hooked crest in the centre; the cones become 1⁄2 in. in diameter, and shed their seeds the second year, and lose much of their glaucous hue. Seeds brown with conspicuous resinous warts. Bot. Mag., t. 9434.
The native country of this cypress was long a matter of speculation. It appears to have been cultivated in England since the latter half of the seventeenth century, having been first introduced from Portugal; hence the epithet lusitanica. But it was never found wild either in Portugal or the Portuguese settlement of Goa in Western India, in spite of its common name. It is now certain that it is a native of Mexico, and was, no doubt, introduced to the Peninsula by mariners or members of the religious fraternities, probably in the sixteenth century. The first direct introduction from Mexico was in the forties of the last century. The most celebrated plantation of C. lusitanica is at Busaco, in Portugal.
It should be added that Martinez (Las Pinaceas Mexicanas, 1963) does not recognise C. lusitanica as a native of Mexico. The native Mexican trees which most botanists now consider to belong to this species are treated by him under the name C. lindleyi Klotzsch.
For the northern and eastern parts of the country this tree is not suited. In southern England there are good specimens from Sussex westward, but it is in the south-west and in Ireland that it thrives the best. In England there are trees of 70 to 80 ft in height and 41⁄2 to 6 ft in girth at Leonardslee and Wakehurst Place, Sussex; Blackmoor, Hants; Killerton, Devon; and The Hendre, Mon. (measured 1961-5). At Wisley there is a specimen about 45 ft high; it was untouched by the winter of 1962-3. The tallest known is an unhealthy tree at Bicton in Devon, which is 102 ft in height. In Ireland the best trees so far recorded are in the same height range as the English, but generally of larger girth. These are at Fota, Co. Cork; Inishtioge, Co. Kilkenny; Birr Castle, Co. Offaly (from seed collected by Coulter in Mexico in 1837); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow; and, in Northern Ireland, at Castlewellan, Co. Down.
var. benthamii (Endl.) Carr. C. benthamii Endl.; C. thurifera Schlecht., not H. B. K. – Cones of this variety are identical with those of the type in colour, shape and size, but the branchlets are flattened and arranged in two opposite ranks, both on the same plane. Native of Mexico; introduced about 1838. According to Martinez, it has a restricted distribution, most of the stands being in the mountains N.E. of Pachuca. The name “knightiana” is sometimes given to a slightly more glaucous form; such forms, and others with yellowish green leaves, are found in the wild.
cv. ‘Flagillifera’. – Shoots pendulous and whip-like, resembling Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera’.
cv. ‘Glauca Pendula’. – A very beautiful, pendulous tree with glaucous foliage, put into commerce by Messrs Hillier around 1925. A plant at Rowallane, Co. Down, received from them in 1928, is now 36 ft high with a spreading crown 30 ft in diameter (1965). There is another specimen, probably from the same source, at Glendurgan, Cornwall.