Cupressus arizonica

Cupressus arizonica

Cupressus arizonica, the Arizona Cypress, is a species of cypress native to the southwest of North America, in the United States in Arizona, southwest New Mexico, southern California, and the Chisos Mountains of west Texas, and in Mexico in Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas and northern Baja California. In the wild, the species is often found in small, scattered populations, not in large forests.

It is a medium-sized evergreen tree with a conic to ovoid-conic crown. It grows to heights of 10-25 m, and its trunk diameter reaches 0.5 m. The foliage grows in dense sprays, varying from dull gray-green to bright glaucous blue-green in color. The leaves are scale-like, 2-5 mm long, and produced on rounded (not flattened) shoots. The seed cones are globose to oblong, 15-33 mm long, with 6 or 8 (rarely 4 or 10) scales, green at first, maturing gray or gray-brown about 20-24 months after pollination. The cones remain closed for many years, only opening after the parent tree is killed in a wildfire, thereby allowing the seeds to colonize the bare ground exposed by the fire. The male cones are 3-5 mm long, and release pollen in February-March.

There are five varieties, treated as distinct species by some botanists:

  • Cupressus arizonica var. arizonica - Arizona Cypress -

secure. Southern Arizona, southwest New Mexico, south to Durango and Tamaulipas.

  • Cupressus arizonica var. glabra (C. glabra) - Smooth Arizona Cypress -

secure. Central Arizona.

  • Cupressus arizonica var. montana (C. montana) - San Pedro Martir Cypress - Vulnerable. Sierra Juárez and San Pedro Mártir pine-oak forests of Northern Baja California.
  • Cupressus arizonica var. nevadensis (C. nevadensis) - Piute Cypress - Least Concern. Southern California (Kern County and Tulare County).
  • Cupressus arizonica var. stephensonii (C. stephensonii) - Cuyamaca Cypress - Critically endangered. Southern California (San Diego County). Most of this population was burnt in the October 2003 Cedar Fire, though (as expected for a fire-climax species) subsequent regeneration has been good.


Arizona Cypress, particularly the strongly glaucous var. glabra, is widely cultivated as an ornamental tree. Unlike Monterey Cypress, it has proved highly resistant to cypress canker, caused by the fungus Seridium cardinale, and growth is reliable where this disease is prevalent.


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