Mediterranean cypress (Eng); ciprés común, ciprés mediterráneo (Spa); xiprer (Cat); nekosta arrunta, altzifre arrunta (Baq); alcipreste (Glg); cipreste-comum, cipreste-dos-cemitérios (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? Traditionally a cypress tree was planted on either side of the door of a house as a symbol of hospitality. This indicated to travellers that they would be offered bed and board for a few days.
Evergreen tree that can be up to 35 m tall in favourable conditions. It has a variable form according to the inclination of its branches: they may give it a narrow, columnar appearance, or be more extended and pyramidal. In old specimens, the greyish-brown bark is usually very cracked longitudinally. The leaves are small scales, around 0.5-1 mm in length, with an obtuse tip, and dark, matt green in colour. They overlap very tightly, like the scales of a fish, and completely cover the twigs. If you rub the foliage, it gives off a slightly resinous aroma. Cypresses usually have separate male and female cones, although these appear on the same plant. The male cones are very small (4-8 mm) and yellow in colour. When the round, green female cones are fertilised they give rise to woody fruit, known as strobilus and similar to pine cones, that are formed of 8-14 scales and which are 2-3.5 cm in diameter. The Mediterranean cypress has greyish-brown cones when ripe. These are shaped like ellipsoids or elongated spheres, differentiating it from the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa). They take almost 2 years to develop completely and, when finally ripe, the scales open to release small, flattened seeds, with narrow wings.
Often the cypress develops a powerful taproot that can penetrate to great depths in search of water. This allows the tree to anchor firmly to the ground, grow in exceptionally dry locations, and resist summer droughts. It prefers warm climates, with mild winter temperatures, although it can also grow well in colder areas that have wet summers. In the Canaries it is principally found in extensive terrain near urban and rural zones, as well as next to roads in the midslopes, or medianías (zones between altitudes of 600 and 1500 m). The most important groups of this species have been planted, some for silvicultural use, but solitary individuals can also be found in the humid pine forest, where naturalised specimens reflect previous repopulation.
Species native to the eastern Mediterranean. From there, plantations of this tree quickly spread throughout the West, meaning its precise area of origin is very difficult to determine. In the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean cypress has been widely planted as an ornamental species in gardens, parks and cemeteries, as well as windbreak hedges. It has become established in the wild on the islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and Tenerife.