There are over twenty types of Cypress trees in the world, though the heartiest versions grow in North America. Among the vast and varied group of Cypress trees, which feature unique characteristics, and call North America home are:
- Leyland Cypress: The fast-growing specimen can reach heights to 50 feet. The flat-branched evergreen features soft pine needles and tolerates many soil conditions.
- Arizona Cypress: The sturdy tree thrives in dry and hot conditions. Located in the southwestern portion of the United States, the trees are used as windbreakers thanks to their dense foliage.
- Bald Cypress: Known for its height and protruding roots, the bald Cypress is a deciduous tree which grows best in swampy areas with very moist soil. The trees are commonly found in coastal regions and can live for centuries.
- Italian Cypress: The massive evergreen is tall and narrow appearance, much like a column. It is a hardy tree that does best in warm climates.
While they may not share all of the same physical attributes, Cypress trees have one thing in common: they are havens for wildlife. Birds are especially fond of Cypress trees' sturdy branches and needles that make for excellent nest-building material.
Its majestic appearance makes the Cypress tree a popular choice for ornamental landscaping. However, before you line your property with the attractive Cupressus species, it's important to note its main characteristics:
- Shape: Varies among types. For example, the Monterey Cypress can grow up to 70 feet tall and features a wide, flat canopy which resembles an open umbrella. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cypress resembles a traditional Christmas tree and can reach heights of about 60 feet. Among the smallest of the species is the Gowen Cypress which rarely grows taller than 25 feet and looks more like a shrub than a full-grown tree.
- Foliage: The Cypress foliage features different shades of green, from dark green to light bluish-green depending on the tree type. Its leaves range from fine needles to scaly overlapping hair-like appendages that look similar to braids attached to twigs.
- Fruit: The species yields small cones, some of which look like nuts and others are woody cones that measure roughly two inches wide. Each of the tiny cones contains no more than 30 seeds.
- Branches: Since the Cypress includes both evergreen and deciduous trees, the branches differ from tree to tree. While the Leyland Cypress sports flat branches, the Pond Cypress has spiny offshoots.
The Cypress tree has a fascinating history that dates back to the ancient Egyptians who used the durable trees to build mummy cases. The Greeks were also fans of the tree and used its wood to create urns to store the ashes of those who died in battle. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Plato's code of laws was etched into Cypress wood because it was thought to outlast brass.
The Cypress tree's popularity is also deeply rooted in the American south where a major travel attraction bears its name: Cypress Gardens. Located in Berkeley County, South Carolina, this botanical garden has been a top-rated family destination since 1931. The property is home to hundreds of Cypress trees which frame other features of the park, including the butterfly house, fresh water aquarium and rose gardens. Meanwhile, Winter Haven, Florida, used to be home to another Cypress Gardens, which closed in 2009. The historic gardens will forever be remembered for the dozens of majestic Cypress trees that lined Lake Eloise and the sprawling flower beds that burst with color.