Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Cupressaceae belong to the Gymnosperm group along with the Pinaceae (Pine Family), Taxaceae (Yew Family), and Taxodiaceae (Redwood Family) - all Needle-leaved, Cone-bearing Trees. The seeds of these tress are usually exposed, and not enclosed by a fruit structure like a flowering plant, hence the name Gymnosperm: "naked seed." (Kinda racy, huh? Who says botany is dull?)

The Cupressaceae seeds are produced on the surface of scales of a woody or fleshy cone, often so tightly fit together that it resembles a berry, as in the familar garden junipers. The structure is often not apparent until after the cone has dried sufficiently that it begins to separate. The leaves are scale-like, either opposite or whorled (although they resemble pine needles on the very young seedlings).

Our familiar representative of this family on Montara Mountain is the almost-native Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey Cypress).



 Cupressus macrocarpa
Monterey Cypress

Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Flowers: None to speak of, except for pollen producing structures that appear briefly in early spring.

Leaves: Scaly, blunt, opposite arrangement in 4 rows; dark bright green on cord-like twigs.

Fruit/Seeds: Almost round cones, slightly longer than broad, brown, with 8 -12 rounded, pointed, hard scales tightly fit together.

Location: Pretty much everywhere along old roads and near the old ranch houses.

Status: Not Really Native - Common.

Cupressus macrocarpa
600x450 JPG - 60K
Further description & Comment: Monterey Cypress are most known for the flat-topped, wind-swept forms often seen in the photographs. But when growing in protected areas, they can get up to 60 - 80 ft tall. The one pictured above grows in a weather-sheltered old quarry area. It's about 20 ft tall, and probably 10 - 15 years old.

600x450 JPG - 40K

600x450 JPG - 60K
A good close-up of the cones and the leave scale structure. Note the tight fitting cone divisions and the characteristic pointed plates. A cypress in a pollinatin' mood. This stage passes quickly, usually in early spring, so it's easy to miss unless you have allergies.
There are only two native groves of Monterey Cypress; one in Monterey and the other in Carmel. All the others seen throughout the coast have been planted. The ones on Montara Mountain were first planted by ranchers in the mid-to-late 1800's, and have since spread on their own throughout the mountain. In the Southern Hemisphere, this species is grown in forest plantations for timber.


Return to Cucurbitaceae (Gourd Family)

Continue to Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)

  Plant Listings by: Family & Latin Name Common Name Color
Top of Page     Home