22+ Different Types Of Cypress Trees With Pictures: Identification, Symbolism

If you want a dramatic flair in your winter garden, the lush, green cypress tree is a good way to add color in your landscape.

Aside from that, cypress trees also grow very tall so they can provide ample shade in the yard without all the fuss of maintenance. But did you know that there are more than 140 types of cypress trees out there? 

In this post, we shall look into the different types of cypress trees. You would be shocked to know that not all of them hold a cypress name and not all of them botanically belong in the Cupressaceae family. So, without much ado, here are the types of cypress trees for you. 

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In this article:

Cypress tree symbolism

Having been around for hundreds of years, it has been widely referenced not only in religious texts but also in literature. There are a lot of notable symbolisms to which cypress trees are associated. If you are curious about what these could be, here are some. 

Immortality

Cypress trees are usually lined up along cemetery lines and as such, are designated as the emblem of eternal life. Due to its upward symmetry, it signifies the movement of the soul to heaven. The same is true for the Persians who consider cypress trees as the first tree to grow in Paradise. 

Underworld

The cypress is also considered as the tree of the underworld or the tree of Hades. Its dark green foliage is used by Hades cults in making crowns used symbolically during sacrifice. 

Greek mythology

The name cypress is said to have originated from the legend of Cyparissus with whom the sun god Apollo fell in love with.

The maiden had a domesticated deer. While hunting, Apollo accidentally killed the deer with his bow. She was so devastated, she begged to die so Apollo made the deer into a tree. 

Catholicism

Cypress trees are said to be dual representations of life and death. It is said that one of the sons of Adam brought him an oil from the Tree of Life from the garden but it was too late for him.

From where he poured the oil, cedar, olive and cypress sprouted and these three woods made up the cross where Christ was nailed in. 

China

Cypress seeds are symbols of longevity as they were conceived to be full of yang energy. It is also believed that where the cypress is, you can also find jade and gold underneath. 

Japan

The hinoki cypress is the most used wood in Shinto rites. It is used in making the scepters of priests and instruments. In religious rites, rubbing two hinoki cypresses are used to light fire. 

Other cultures

It is the tree to which the country Cyprus was named from due to the tree’s significance in the spiritual life and livelihood of the Mediterranean people.

It is also engraved across the tombs of pharaohs in Egypt. The same is true for Islamic mosques in Asia, particularly in Turkey. 

Cypress tree identification

Popular for ornamental landscaping, here are some of the most notable characteristics of cypress trees that make it valuable. Knowing how they look is important for you to know before you line your property with these beautiful trees. 

Leaves

The most stunning feature of the cypress tree would be their leaves. They range from dark green, to blue green, and lighter green. The leaves can also be scaly looking or needle like, sometimes overlapping and sometimes braided. 

Branches

It is interesting to note that cypress trees can be evergreen or deciduous depending on the type. As such, some have woody branches while some feature flat and smooth surfaced branches. 

Shape

The shape of cypress trees varies depending on type. Nonetheless, they sport a pyramid, symmetrical shape.

Height

Most cypress trees grow to up to 70ft like the Monterey cypress. Some are at 40-60ft like the Arizona cypress and there are also those that are at just 25ft like the Gowen cypress. They usually have a shade coverage that is consonant with their height. 

Fruit

The tree produces small cones, at a width of 2-inches, nutty and very woody. Each of the cones contain more than 30 seeds. 

Types of cypress trees

There are at least 25 types of cypress trees found around the world. Half of these are endemic in North America.

They can be categorized generally as true or false cypresses. Each type has its own unique characteristic, setting each apart from each other. Here are the types of cypress trees for you. 

1. Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

This one is native to Florida and it practically thrives in damper locations such as ponds, marshlands, and flood zones. This cypress is called as such because it becomes needleless during winter.

They grow to up to 70ft and can also tolerate drier soils so they are always a fine choice for any garden type. They have an upright and triangular form and their roots are wrapped around the knees. 

2. Bhutan cypress (Cupressus cashmeriana)

This one is a prized ornamental cypress because of its graceful look. It features a weeping branches and blue-green foliage.

It is perfect to plant along with yuccas, acacias, and palms, among others. While beautiful, you have to know that it grows extensively and it is only hardy in zone 9. 

3. Californian cypress or Gowen cypress (Cupressus goveniana)

Like the Monterey cypress, this one is also a native of California. It is considered as an evergreen cypress, with a conical form and grows to up to 160ft when maintained well.

Its foliage is composed of dense, dark green to yellow green needles which tend to spray out. They are very slow-growers and this is why they are considered as rare cypress types. 

4. Cheng’s cypress (Cupressus chengiana)

Source

This one is native to the Gansu Province of China, endemic along hillsides and valleys.

It reaches a height of 100ft, featuring beautiful matte green leaves, and reddish-brown, globular cones. This one has become very rare due to overlogging. 

5. Chinese weeping cypress (Cupressus funebris)

This one is a medium sized cypress tree known for their lighter green, needle-like foliage. It is also called as the weeping cypress because of its pendulous branches, giving it an overall drooping look.

This is one of the most beautiful ornamental cypress out there and as such, are usually found in parks, and lush gardens. 

6. Cuyamaca cypress (Cupressus stephensonii)

This one is endemic around the ravenous parts of San Diego, California. It can reach 50ft, with an open form, smooth, reddish-brown bark.

Its leaves are uniquely blue and emit a lemony scent when crushed. It is, however, near extinction due to the California fires of 2003. 

7. Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa)

This one is native to Japan and is a central figure in Shinto rites. It is a slow-growing cypress, sporting the traditional pyramidal look. Its foliage has a drooping effect at the tips, needlelike and is deep green in color and has a glossy look.

They grow very large, often up to 80ft. There are also dwarf hinoki cypresses that look beautiful as container plants. 

8. Lawson cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)

This tall evergreen cypress is also called the Port Orford cedar. It grows to up to 200ft, featuring blue green leaf sprays and scaly, flat green leaves. Since it grows very large, this one is perfect as windbreakers and as permanent fence and property lines.

Some of the most notable Lawson cypress cultivars would be: Ellwoodii, Silver Thread, and Minima Glauca. 

9. Lemon cypress trees (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’)

This perhaps, is the most popular landscape cypress out there. They are loved for their soft leaves and year-round golden yellow color.

It has a scaly bark, with spherical cones, and an upright, columnar growth.

10. Leyland cypress tree (Cupressus x leylandii)

This one is considered as the crossover between the Nootka cypress and the Cupressus macrocarpa.

It has a very narrow, symmetrical, palace charm which is extra vibrant during spring and golden yellow during fall. It is a perfect focal point in vast US estates and is popular for hedging in the UK. 

11. Macnab cypress (Cupressus macnabiana)

This found is native to northern California, sporting tiny, oblong cones, light green sprays and horn-like projections on its scaly surface.

It is highly ornamental, sporting a purple sheen and a stunning reddish-brown bark. This one is more of a shrub type, growing to up to 40ft. 

12. Mediterranean cypress or Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

This one is considered as the original cypress. They grow very tall, with a narrow and columnar look and bands of feathery, and scaly, deep green foliage.

The seed cones, on the other hand, are elongated. They grow to up to 70ft and are the referenced cypress tree in literature and in biblical texts. 

13. Mendocino cypress (Cupressus pygmaea)

This is also commonly called the pygmy cypress, native to the coastal regions of California. It is often considered as a subtype of the Goveniana.

Ornamentally, we love its long, scaly leaves, with a dark green color. The cones are also unique as they are rounded, and come with scales arranged opposite each other. 

14. Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)

This one is a medium sized cypress, native to California. It is unique for its flat top form, with branches spreading sideways.

It could grow to up to 130ft, with soft, scaly, and bright green leaves, giving off a strong citrus scent when crushed. It is also unique for its woody, oblong cones and fibrous bark. 

15. Moroccan cypress (Cupressus atlantica)

Source

This one is also called the Atlas cypress because it is native to the Atlas Mountains of Southern Morocco. It reaches a height of 100ft and sports blue leaves with white streaks and a unique gray, cracked trunk.

It is resistant to drought and freezing points and its wood is very durable, lightweight and aromatic. 

Bans on logging for Moroccan cypress have been established due to overgrazing and overexploitation. 

16. Nootka cypress (Cupressus nootkatensis ‘Green Arrow’)

This one is also called the Alaskan cypress ranging from Alaska to northern California. It is made for beyond freezing points and winter gardens, sporting a narrow frame, and a rich, deep green color needle-like foliage. They grow to up to 20ft in height and a shade of up to 4ft. 

17. Pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens)

This one is another Florida native but compared to the famous bald cypress are narrower and more columnar in form. They grow to up to 60ft, sporting golden brown and orange leaves during fall.

When they are grown near marshes, and ponds, their trunk shall look swollen. Unlike the bald cypress, they do not produce knees. Also, they are drought tolerant. 

18. Saharan cypress (Cupressus dupreziana)

As the name suggests, this one is endemic in the Sahara region. It is considered as the most drought resistant Saharan cypress, growing to up to 100ft, and sporting matte green leaves.

They can also tolerate wintry temperatures of up to 7C. However, it is also considered as near extinct with just 150 full trees around in the wild. 

19. San Pedro Martir cypress (Cupressus Montana)

This one is a Mexico and California native, growing in between 16-65ft. It is unique for its conical yet open form, with dark brown bark that strips with age.

This one is often compared to the Arizona cypress because of their uncanny resemblance. 

20. Smooth Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Blue Ice’)

If you are looking for a hardy cypress tree that would grow well up to zone 6, this is a fine choice. It thrives in dry environments with cool nights. This one in particular has a striking open form with standout silver and blue green needles.  

21. Tecate cypress (Cupressus forbesii)

This one is also called the Forbes cypress. It has an upright behavior, growing to up to 30ft tall and 15ft wide. It is unique for being one of the few multi-trunk cypress out there.

Its natural habitat would be rocky soils. Its leaves are deep to light green with dark brown cones. They are perfect around drought tolerant plants and are beautiful for hedging sloped yards. 

22. Tibetan cypress (Cupressus gigantea)

It also goes by the name of Tsangpo cypress. It is considered as one of the subtypes of the Himalayan cypress, reaching a height of 165ft in the wild. It grows majestic, featuring a pyramid form, with dark green sprays and lighter green needles. 

False cypress vs. true cypress

To begin with, both are considered cypresses, collectively. True cypresses on one hand belong to the genus Cupressus and are the coniferous types of cypresses.

They are considered as the original cypresses noted to have originated from Italy and southern France. They are denser, way taller, and woodier. 

On the other hand, false cypresses come endemically from Asia. They are the rounder, shorter types of cypresses. Their woods are also softer compared to true cypresses, often sporting flatter needles for the foliage. Their foliage ranges from green to gold, and then turns into reddish colors in winter. 

Cypress tree care

If you are really convinced into planting a cypress tree, here are some maintenance tips to master: 

LandscapePots
SoilWell-draining soils; can tolerate drier soilsWell-draining; can thrive in moist, damp soils
pH levelEach cypress type thrives in different pH levels but all love acidic to alkaline soils
Light In the same way, some cypress tree types can tolerate lots of sun or too much shade but the best balance is still partial sun and partial shade. 
FertilizerSpray sparingly for fast growing cypress typesUse slow-release or fertilizer that are diluted in water
WaterDoes not require regular wateringNeeds water regularly but just enough to dampen the soil
PruningCan be done regularly but the best time would be two months before the first frostNot applicable

FAQs

How many types of cypress trees are there?

To date, there are at least 25 types of cypress trees in the world. The densest, tallest, fastest growing cypress trees are found in North America like the Leyland cypress. In terms of genus, characteristics and locations of endemicity, the two major types of cypresses would be the true and false cypress. 

How long do cypress trees live?

At best, ornamental cypress trees have an average lifespan of 10-25 years given the right maintenance tips. But overall, cypress trees can live for hundreds and even thousands of years. The bald cypress, for instance, is noted as the oldest cypress tree. The one found around the Black River is at least 2,500 years old. 

What are cypress trees good for?

Being an ancient tree with historical marks from spirituality, to culture, art and livelihood, cypresses have a lot of benefits that we still capitalize on today. Here are some of the cypress tree benefits that you should know of. 

  • Building material: Known for their lightness and durability, damage and moisture resistance, cypress wood is used for bed frames, chests, drawers, and more. They are also extensively used for doors, window frames and roof shingles. They are also used for porches, bridges and more.  
  • Landscaping: As we all know already, cypress trees are also loved for their high ornamental value. They are usually used as windbreakers, arbors, climbers, and posts, lined up along fence lines to keep everything intact. Their shade coverage and durability are also dependable for bordering the property. 
  • Timber and firewood: This is an underrated information but cypress trees make good firewood. They are easy to chop, offer clean and fast burning and do not soot, hence, reducing tar. Most of all, cypress woods dry fast so they are ready to go to fireplaces any time. 
  • Medicinal: Cypress trees also have notable medicinal properties that a lot of people may not know of. This tree contains anti-inflammatory content and organic compounds which naturally treat the following conditions: 
  • Treating fungal infections and bacteria which causes body odor and athlete’s foot. 
  • Helps in alleviating respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, chronic congestion, and nasal drip, among others. 
  • Helps in hair health and in strengthening hair follicles, naturally reducing hair fall and maintains natural hair silkiness. 
  • Helps in speedy wound healing and in concealing scars, blemishes and skin impurities. It is also used in treating varicose veins. 
  • Beneficial in alleviating the pain from gout, arthritis, and inflamed muscles. It also soothes organ systems, offering speedy recovery

Can I plant a bald cypress in water?

You can, in containers, but this is not ideal. Bald cypresses love well-draining, acidic and alkaline soils and prefer sunny locations. Nonetheless, these are flood tolerant cypress types and survive along ponds and marshlands.  

Are cypress trees fast-growing?

The answer to this depends on the type of cypress tree that you have. Some cypresses are fast growing like the Leyland cypress. They have a growth rate of 3-6-ft a year. Some are considered slow growers, growing at just 1-3-ft annually. 

How far apart do you plant cypress trees?

Depending on the average height of the type of cypress that you have, an 8-10-ft planting gap is a good distance for these high and wide growing trees. But if you want to have a privacy line for your property, a 4-6-ft planting gap is fine. 

Where do cypress trees grow best?

Cypress trees thrive best in full sun and partial shade. They grow tall to up to 60ft and more, nonetheless, if they are grown in a location where they get eight hours of uninterrupted sunlight everyday. This should be coupled with well-draining soils, moist to dry soils. 

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Conclusion

When it comes to functional and ornamental credentials, cypress trees should be a frontline choice. Functionally, their sturdiness, durability, lightness, and resistance to many elements make it a very sought-after material for construction, timber and livelihood.

On the other hand, they also do not fall short when it comes to aesthetic value. They are good as border trees, windbreakers, for arbors, and more. 

Such is the case, you have to know which type of cypress you should choose depending on what you will use them for. Given everything that we have covered here, picking the right type of cypress tree should not be that hard. 

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