Monterey Cypress – Hesperocyparis macrocarpa
Other Names: (old) Cupressus macrocarpa
Distinctive Characteristics: This conifer can be dramatically sculpted into twisted and distorted forms when exposed to strong ocean winds, salt spray, and poor soils on the coast. The crown is widespread and sparse with foliage. The trunk can be deeply fluted and the base buttressed. When cultivated outside its native range, it is a relatively fast-growing, erect tree. While it is semi-dependent upon fire for reproduction, fire can easily destroy trees.
Distribution: Native to a narrow coastal strip in only two small populations, between Cypress Point and Pescadero Point on the north side of Carmel Bay, and near Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, on the Monterey Peninsula, California. It has been planted widely outside its native range in the U.S. and internationally. Elevation: sea level to 100 ft. (30 m).
Ecosystem: Along foggy, ocean salt-sprayed coasts on sandy soil, on rocky cliffs, rock crevices, slopes and headlands, exposed to nearly constant onshore winds. Forms in pure stands, or with Monterey Pine and Gowen Cypress trees, and associated with understory including California sage brush, pearly everlasting, coyote brush, ceanothus, bracken fern, chamise, Hooker manzanita, chaparral broom, blue blossom, liveforever, seaside daisy, golden yarrow, lizard tail, salal, Douglas iris, bush monkeyflower, Pacific bayberry, skunkweed, poison oak, and California huckleberry.
Maximum Age: Estimated to 300 years.
Maximum Height and Girth: Height up to 158 ft. (48 m); up to 25 ft. (7.6 m) in circumference. (None of the largest trees occur in their natural range.)
Animal Community: Rodents and deer consume seedlings.
Medicine: A decoction of the foliage was used for rheumatism (Costanoan).
Modern Uses: The wood is used for building furniture, fence posts, boats, and fine crafts. It is planted in Australia and New Zealand as a hearty windbreak tree on farms.
Threats and Conservation: Its status is "Vulnerable" on the IUNC Redlist, due to its limited natural distribution, semi-dependence upon fire for regeneration, and climate change.