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Cupressus macnabiana A. Murr.

Modern name

Cupressus macnabiana A.Murray bis

A shrub or small bushy tree to 30 or 40 ft high; bark greyish, furrowed and fibrous. Branchlet systems forming flat sprays (though not constantly so), the ultimate divisions very slender and 18 to 14 in. long. Leaves dark grey green, about 120 in. long, scale-like, thick, convex and blunt, with a conspicuous resinpit on the back. Cones short-stalked, globose, about 34 in. across, rather glaucous at first, becoming brown or grey, scales usually six, rarely eight, those at the apex developing thickened, horn-like crests, those at the base with thin, recurved bosses. Seeds brown.

Native of California; discovered by Jeffrey in the Sierra Nevada in 1853, introduced by W. Murray the following year for Lawson’s nursery, Edinburgh. It is now very rare in this country, and although apparently one of the hardiest of the true cypresses, appears to be short-lived under cultivation. It is one of the most easily recognised of a difficult group, first, by the resin-pit at the back of the leaf (quite conspicuous under the lens); second, by the prominent horn­like development on the upper scales of the cone. The foliage has a very pleasant aromatic fragrance.

This cypress has remained rare in gardens. There is an example at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, measuring 33 × 412 ft at 112 ft (1965), and others of about the same size in Eire at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly; and at Mount Usher and Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow.

C. bakeri Jeps. – A tree to 50 ft high, closely allied to the preceding but with a reddish-brown bark which becomes grey with age but not furrowed. The branchlets are arranged all round the shoot, the ultimate divisions about 12 in. long and the leaves also somewhat longer (about 112 in.). Cones smaller (about 12 in. across). The Modoc cypress, as it is called, is confined to Shasta Co. and S.E. Siskiyou Co., where it grows at 4,000 to 6,000 ft.

subsp. matthewsii C. B. Wolf – This makes a taller tree than typical C. bakeri; the ultimate divisions of the branchlets are longer and the cones larger (to 45 in. across), with inconspicuous crests. It is found in the Siskiyou Mountains of California and Oregon and is known as the Siskiyou cypress.

C. bakeri and its subspecies have recently been introduced and promise to be more satisfactory in cultivation than C. macnabiana, coming as they do from considerably higher altitudes.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Bells Wood, Bayford, Herts., 66 × 4 ft (1985); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, in The Oaks, 50 × 234 ft (1978); Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Eire, 53 × 414 ft (1985); National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin, Eire, 42 × 312 ft (1980).

C. bakeri – The subspecies mathewsii is no longer recognised, but the plants introduced under the name are exceptionally vigorous.



Other species in the genus