From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cupressus sempervirens, the Mediterranean
known as Italian, Tuscan, or Graveyard Cypress, or Pencil Pine)
is a species of cypress native
to the eastern Mediterranean
region, in northeast Libya,
southeast Greece (Crete, Rhodes),
southern Turkey, Cyprus,
western Syria, Lebanon, Israel,
and also a disjunct population inIran.
It is a medium-sized evergreen tree
to 35 m (115 ft) tall, with a conic crown with level branches
and variably loosely hanging branchlets.
It is very long-lived, with some trees reported to be over 1,000
The foliage grows in dense sprays, dark green in colour. The
leaves are scale-like, 2-5 mm long, and produced on rounded (not
flattened) shoots. The seed cones are
ovoid or oblong, 25-40 mm long, with 10-14 scales, green at
first, maturing brown about 20–24 months after pollination. The
male cones are 3-5 mm long, and release pollen in late winter.
It is moderately susceptible to cypress canker,
caused by the fungus Seridium
cardinale, and can suffer extensive dieback where this disease is
The species name sempervirens comes
from the Latin for 'evergreen'.
Mediterranean Cypress has been widely cultivated as an
ornamental tree for millennia away from its native range, mainly
throughout the central and western Mediterranean region, and in
other areas with similar hot, dry summers and mild, rainy
winters, including California,
It can also be grown successfully in areas with cooler, moister
summers, such as the British
Zealand and the
Pacific Northwest (coastal Oregon, Washington and British
Columbia). It is also planted in south Florida as
tree. In some areas, particularly the U.S.,
it is known inaccurately as "Italian" or "Tuscan Cypress";
although the species is very commonly cultivated in Italy,
it is not native there.
The vast majority of the trees in cultivation are selected cultivars with
a fastigiate crown,
with erect branches forming a narrow to very narrow crown often
less than a tenth as wide as the tree is tall. The dark green
'exclamation mark' shape of these trees is a highly
characteristic signature of Mediterranean town and village
landscapes. Formerly, the species was sometimes separated into
the wild C.
sempervirens var. sempervirens (syn.
and the fastigiate C.
s. var. pyramidalis (syn.
but the latter is now only distinguished as a Cultivar
Group, with no botanical significance.
It is also grown for its very durable, scented wood,
used most famously for the doors of St.
Peter's Basilica in
Cypress used to be used in distilleries as staves to
to make alcohol before the invention of stainless steel.
C. sempervirens was
known by the ancient Greeks and Romans as "the mournful tree",
sacred to the rulers of the underworld and
to their associates, the Fates and
It was customary to plant it by a grave, and, at the time of a
death, to place it either before the house of the decedent or in
the vestibule, to warn those about to perform a sacred rite
against entering a place polluted by a dead body. No Roman
funeral was complete without cypress. Mourners carried its
branches as a sign of respect and the bodies of the great were
laid upon cypress branches before interment. According to Ovid,
the tree was named after Kyparissos,
a favorite ofApollo.
The young boy accidentally slew Apollo’s beloved stag. He became
so remorseful that he besought the gods to punish him with
everlasting gloom. In compliance they transformed him into a
cypress tree. The cypress is the principal cemetery tree in the Muslim world
as well as in ancient and modern European cultures.