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Cone Bearing Evergreens - Cypresses

( Originally Published 1927 )

Three genera of pyramidal conifers, with light, graceful leaf-spray, and small woody cones, held erect, compose the group known as cypresses. All have found places in horticulture, for not one of them but has value for ornamental planting. Some species have considerable lumber value.

The Monterey Cypress

Cupressus macrocarpa, Cord.

The Monterey cypress is now restricted to certain ocean-facing bluffs about Monterey Bay in California. These trees are derelicts of their species. Wind-beaten into grotesqueness of form, unmatched in any other tree near the sea-level, their matted and gnarled branches make a flat and very irregular top above a short, thick, often bent and leaning trunk. Clusters of globular cones stud the twigs behind the leafy spray composed of thread-like wiry twigs, entirely covered with scaly, four-ranked leaves.

In cultivation this cypress grows into a luxuriant, pyramidal tree, often broadening and losing its symmetry, but redeeming it by the grace of its plume-like, outstretched branches. One by one the native cypresses on the crumbling bluffs will go down into Monterey Bay, for the undermining process is eating out their foundations. Wind and wave are slowly but surely sealing their doom. But the species is saved to a much wider territory.

The European Cypress

C. sempervirens, Linn.

A tall, narrow pyramid of sombre green, the European cypress is found in cemeteries in south Europe and every-where, planted for ornament. This is the classic cypress, a conventional feature of Italian gardens, the evergreen most frequently mentioned in classical literature. Slow-growing and noted for its longevity, it was the symbol of immortality. It is hardy in the South-Atlantic and Pacific-Coast states, and is a favorite evergreen for hedges in the Southwest.

Three other members of the genus occur on mountain foothills—one in Arizona, two in California—all easily recognized by their scale-like leaves and button-like woody cones, which require two years to mature.

The White Cedar

Chamaecyparis Thyoides, Britt.

The genus chamaecyparis includes three American species, of tall, narrow pyramidal habit and flat leaf-spray like that of the arbor-vitae. Annual erect globular cones of few, woody scales, produce one to five seeds under each.

This white cedar is the swamp-loving variety of the Atlantic seaboard—its range stretches from Maine to Mississippi. The durability of its white wood gives it consider-able importance as a lumber tree. It is particularly dependable when placed in contact with water and exposed to weather. Cedar shingles, fence posts, railroad ties, buckets, and other cooperage consume quantities each year. The trees are important ornamental evergreens, planted for their graceful spray and their dull blue-green leaves. Their maximum height is eighty feet.

The Lawson Cypress

C. Lawsoniana, A. Muir.

The Lawson cypress lifts its splendid spire to a height of two hundred feet, on the coast mountains of Oregon and California, forming a nearly continuous forest belt twenty miles long, between Point Gregory and the mouth of the Coquille River. Spire-like, with short, horizontal branches, this species bears a leaf-spray of feathery lightness, bright green, from the multitude of minute paired leaf-scales, and adorned with the clustered pea-sized cones, which are blue-green and very pale until they ripen.

The wood of this giant cypress is used in house-finishing and in boat-building; for flooring, fencing, and for railroad ties.

The Bald Cypress

Taxodium distichum, Rich.

The bald cypress is the one member of the cypress group that sheds its foliage each autumn, following the example of the tamarack. In the Far South, river swamps are often covered with a growth of these cypresses whose trunks are strangely swollen at the base, and often hollow. The flaring buttresses are prolonged into the main roots, which form humps that rise out of the water at some distance from the tree. These "cypress knees" are not yet explained, though authorities suspect that they have some-thing to do with the aëration of the root system.

Inundated nine or ten months of the year, these cypress swamps are often dry the remaining time, and it is a surprise to Southerners to find these trees comfortable and beautiful in Northern parks. Cleveland and New York parks have splendid examples.

The leaves of the bald cypress are of two types. They are scale-like only on stems that bear the globular cones. On other shoots they form a flat spray, each leaf one half to three fourths of an inch long, pea-green in the Southern swamps, bright yellow-green on both sides in dry ground, turning orange-brown before they fall. The twigs that bear these two-ranked leaves are also deciduous, a unique distinction of this genus.

Cypress wood is soft, light brown, durable, and easily worked. Quantities of it are shipped north and used in the manufacture of doors and interior finishing of houses, for fencing, railroad ties, cooperage, and shingles.

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