CYPRESS (Cupressus), in botany, a genus of 12 species of conifers belonging to the family Cupressaceae, represented by evergreen aromatic trees and shrubs indigenous to the south of Europe, Asia and North America. The leaves of the cypresses are scale-like, overlapping and generally in four rows; the female cat kins are roundish, and fewer than the male; the cones consist of from six to ten peltate woody scales, which end in a curved point, and open when the seeds are ripe ; the seeds are numerous and winged. All the species exude resin, but no turpentine.
The Italian cypress (C. sempervirens) has been well known throughout the Mediterranean region since classic times. It is a tapering tree resembling the Lombardy poplar; its branches are thickly covered with small, imbricate, shining-green leaves; the male catkins are about three lines in length ; the cones are between I and i 2in. in diameter, sessile, and generally in pairs, and are made up of large angular scales, slightly convex exteriorly, and with a sharp point in the centre. The tree grows to a height of 9oft. in its native soil. It thrives best on a dry, deep, sandy loam, on airy sheltered sites at no great elevation. The timber is hard, close-grained, of a fine reddish hue, and very durable.
The cypress, which grows no more when once cut down, was regarded as a symbol of the dead, and perhaps for that reason was sacred to Pluto. The tree grows straight, or nearly so, and has a gloomy and forbidding, but wonderfully stately aspect. With advancing age its foliage becomes almost black. Its origin is doubtful.
The Port Orford cedar (C. Lawsoniana), native to south Oregon and north California, attains a height of iooft. The finest repre sentative of the genus in California is the Monterey cypress (C. macrocarpa) . It is a tree of beautiful symmetry, becoming i 5of t. in height, with a trunk 8 to loft. in circumference. It grows rapidly, even on poor soils, and thrives best near the sea. Other Californian species are C. Joveniana and C. Macnabiana, which are much smaller trees than the Monterey cypress. C. funebris is a native of the north of China, where it is planted near pagodas. C. nootkaensis, the Nootka Sound cypress or Alaska cedar, is a hardy species, reaching a height of from 8o to i oof t. C. obtusa, of Japan, is a tall tree reaching iooft. in height, and widely planted by the Japanese for its timber, which is one of the best for interior construction. It is also cultivated by them in a dwarf form not exceeding a foot in height.
The "deciduous cypress," "swamp cypress" or "bald cypress," Taxodium disticlium, is another member of the family (tribe Taxodioideae), a native of the southern United States and Mexico. It is a lofty tree reaching a height of about ',oft., with a massive trunk i5ft. or more in diameter, growing in or near water. The lower part of the trunk bears huge buttresses, each of which ends in a long branching far-spreading root, from the branches of which spring the peculiar knees which rise above the level of the water. The knees are of a soft spongy texture and act as breathing organs, supplying the roots with air, which they would otherwise be unable to obtain when submerged. The stout, hori zontally spreading branches give a cedar-like appearance ; the foliage is light and feathery ; the leaves and the slender shoots which bear them fall in the autumn. The cones, about the size of a small walnut, bear spirally-arranged imbricate scales which subtend the three-angled winged seeds. The wood is light, soft, straight-grained and easily worked; it is very durable in contact with the soil, and is used for railway-ties, posts, fencing and for construction. The tree thrives only near water. The bald cypress is very extensively developed in Mexico, as one of the important assets of that country, furnishing valuable timber for many pur poses. Its durability and resistance to water are remarkable. The geological history of cypress dates back to the Upper Cretaceous, the present evidence being that the group was derived from the pine group during the Mesozoic.