What is a Cypress Plant?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

An elegant growth that is simple to care for, the cypress plant comes in a variety of different species. While most cypress plants are trees, some are smaller shrubs. Growing up to 80 feet (25 meters) in height, the often pyramidal cypress plant is an aromatic addition that is considered popular in many garden plans.

The lemon cypress plant is susceptible to aphid infestation.
The lemon cypress plant is susceptible to aphid infestation.

Shrub species of cypress may not grow more than 20 feet (six meters) tall. Typically, the bark of cypress plants grows into thin strips, or plates, that the tree can shed. Some species, however, feature smooth bark. Cypress leaves are scale-like and small, covering stems in pairs. Small, spherical cones are produced on cypress plants as well.

Redwoods are included in the cypress family.
Redwoods are included in the cypress family.

Iranian gardens contain some of the most well-known cypress plants in the world. Famous Persian gardens like the Mahaan, Fin Garden, and Dowlat-Abad are all developed around the cypress plant. The Sarv-e-Abarkooh cypress plant in the Yazd Province of Iran is the oldest known living cypress in the world. Scientists estimate that the tree is 4,000 years old.

The narrow Italian cypress plant is tolerant of many different climates. Capable of growing up to three feet (one meter) per year, it is often used in landscaping, since it offers height without taking too much space. Italian cypresses are often used by architects to soften corners, cover large drainpipes or other unsightly items, divide pieces of property, and to frame entryways.

Swamp ecosystems rely heavily on the bald cypress plant. Also known as baldcypress, the plant can live up to 600 years and provides cover and food for wetland wildlife species. It can be found growing along creeks, swamps, rivers, and streams. Artists often use bald cypress bark to craft wall decor, clocks, furniture, and other pieces.

Lemon cypresses are shrub-like plants that are native to Italy and California. Available in shades of silver, yellow, and blue, these plants require little to no shade, and prefer lots of moisture and sunlight. Unlike many other cypress species, the lemon cypress is susceptible to aphid infestation.

A rich religious and mythological history surrounds the cypress plant. The plant has been used in ancient Rome for funeral rites, in honor of the Greek goddess Artemis, and in the Iranian epic poem, "The Shahnameh," by Ferdowsi. In Western and Muslim cemeteries, the cypress is the most common landscaping tree used. Leaves of the mourning and Italian cypress trees are often used as symbols of immortality and death.

Cypress trees have also been used to make shingles for houses and other structures. Monterey, Italian, and Bhutan cypresses, which produce light, hard wood, are often used for timber. These varieties are often used as ornamental plants, along with many other cypress species, such as the Gowen, Mexican, Arizona, Sargent, Kashmire, and mourning varieties.

Other varieties of cypress plants can be found all over the globe. Some of these include the Patagonian cypress, cypress pines, Siberian cypress, African cypress, Chinese swamp cypress, and Fujian cypress. Redwood trees are also in the cypress family.

Severe frost can kill a cypress plant. Cypress trees can die by succumbing to root rot. While the plant is immune to most insect pests, stem canker and crown gall can also injure or kill the cypress.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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