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Temporal range: Triassic–Recent
Med Cypress.jpg
Cupressus sempervirens foliage and cones
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae

Cupressaceae is a conifer family, the cypress family, with worldwide distribution. The family includes 27–30 genera (17 monotypic), which include the junipers and redwoods, with about 130–140 species in total. They are monoecious, subdioecious or (rarely) dioecious trees and shrubs up to 116 m (381 ft) tall. The bark of mature trees is commonly orange- to red- brown and of stringy texture, often flaking or peeling in vertical strips, but smooth, scaly or hard and square-cracked in some species.


Fallen foliage sprays (cladoptosis) of Metasequoia

The leaves are arranged either spirally, in decussate pairs (opposite pairs, each pair at 90° to the previous pair) or in decussate whorls of three or four, depending on the genus. On young plants, the leaves are needle-like, becoming small and scale-like on mature plants of many genera; some genera and species retain needle-like leaves throughout their lives. Old leaves are mostly not shed individually, but in small sprays of foliage (cladoptosis); exceptions are leaves on the shoots that develop into branches. These leaves eventually fall off individually when the bark starts to flake. Most are evergreen with the leaves persisting 2–10 years, but three genera (Glyptostrobus, Metasequoia and Taxodium) are deciduous or include deciduous species.

The seed cones are either woody, leathery, or (in Juniperus) berry-like and fleshy, with one to several ovules per scale. The bract scale and ovuliferous scale are fused together except at the apex, where the bract scale is often visible as a short spine (often called an umbo) on the ovuliferous scale. As with the foliage, the cone scales are arranged spirally, decussate (opposite) or whorled, depending on the genus. The seeds are mostly small and somewhat flattened, with two narrow wings, one down each side of the seed; rarely (e.g. Actinostrobus) triangular in section with three wings; in some genera (e.g. Glyptostrobus and Libocedrus), one of the wings is significantly larger than the other, and in some others (e.g. Juniperus, Microbiota, Platycladus, and Taxodium) the seed is larger and wingless. The seedlings usually have two cotyledons, but in some species up to six. The pollen cones are more uniform in structure across the family, 1–20 mm long, with the scales again arranged spirally, decussate (opposite) or whorled, depending on the genus; they may be borne singly at the apex of a shoot (most genera), in the leaf axils (Cryptomeria), in dense clusters (Cunninghamia and Juniperus drupacea), or on discrete long pendulous panicle-like shoots (Metasequoia and Taxodium).

Cupressaceae is a widely distributed conifer family, with a near-global range in all continents except for Antarctica, stretching from 71°N in arctic Norway (Juniperus communis) south to 55°S in southernmost Chile (Pilgerodendron uviferum), while Juniperus indica reaches 5200 m altitude in Tibet, the highest altitude reported for any woody plant. Most habitats on land are occupied, with the exceptions of polar tundra and tropical lowland rainforest (though several species are important components of temperate rainforests and tropical highland cloud forests); they are also rare in deserts, with only a few species able to tolerate severe drought, notably Cupressus dupreziana in the central Sahara. Despite the wide overall distribution, many genera and species show very restricted relictual distributions, and many are endangered species.


Cunninghamia Fangshan, Zhejiang, China
Taiwania cryptomerioides Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg
Athrotaxis selaginoides, Mt Field National Park, Tasmania
Taxodium distichum in an oxbow lake, central Mississippi

Molecular and morphological studies have expanded Cupressaceae to include the genera of Taxodiaceae, previously treated as a distinct family, but now shown not to differ from the Cupressaceae in any consistent characteristics. The member genera have been placed into five distinct subfamilies of Cupressaceae, Athrotaxidoideae, Cunninghamioideae, Sequoioideae, Taiwanioideae, and Taxodioideae. The former Taxodiaceae genus, Sciadopitys, has been moved to a separate monotypic family Sciadopityaceae due to being genetically distinct from the rest of the Cupressaceae. In some classifications Cupressaceae is raised to an order, Cupressales.

The family is divided into seven subfamilies, based on genetic and morphological analysis as follows:[3][4]

A 2010 study of Actinostrobus and Callitris places the three species of Actinostrobus within an expanded Callitris based on analysis of 42 morphological and anatomical characters.[8]

Phylogeny based on 2000 study of morphological and molecular data.[9] Several further papers have suggested the segregation Cupressus species into four total genera.[10][11]

























Callitris (sometimes including Actinostrobus and Neocallitropsis)




Chamaecyparis (sometimes including Fokienia)





Cupressus (sometimes split into Callitropsis, Cupressus, Hesperocyparis, and Xanthocyparis)



Juniperus bermudiana was the key to Bermuda's shipbuilding industry, and used in building houses, and in furniture. It also comprised the habitat for other endemic and native species, and provided Bermudians with shelter from wind and sun.

Many of the species are important timber sources, especially in the genera Calocedrus, Chamaecyparis, Cryptomeria, Cunninghamia, Cupressus, Sequoia, Taxodium, and Thuja. These and several other genera are also important in horticulture. Junipers are among the most important evergreen shrubs, groundcovers and small evergreen trees, with hundreds of cultivars selected, including plants with blue, grey, or yellow foliage. Chamaecyparis and Thuja also provide hundreds of dwarf cultivars as well as trees, including Lawson's cypress and the infamous hybrid Leyland cypress. Dawn redwood is widely planted as an ornamental tree because of its excellent horticultural qualities, rapid growth and status as a living fossil. Giant sequoia is a popular ornamental tree and is occasionally grown for timber. Giant sequoia, Leyland cypress, and Arizona cypress are grown to a small extent as Christmas trees.

Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica) is the national tree of Japan, and ahuehuete (Taxodium mucronatum) the national tree of Mexico. Coast redwood and giant sequoia were jointly designated the state tree of California and are famous California tourist attractions. Redwood National and State Parks and several parks including Giant Sequoia National Monument protect almost half the remaining stands of Coast Redwoods and Giant sequoias. Bald cypress is the state tree of Louisiana. Bald cypress, often festooned with Spanish moss, of southern swamps are another tourist attraction. They can be seen at Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. Bald cypress "knees" are often sold as knick knacks, made into lamps or carved to make folk art. Monterey cypress is another famous picturesque tree often visited by tourists and photographers.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana ("red stick") was named after the decay-resistant red wood of Juniperus virginiana, used by Native Americans in the region for waymarking. Its heartwood is fragrant and used in clothes chests, drawers and closets to repel moths. It is a source of juniper oil used in perfumes and medicines. The wood is also used as long lasting fenceposts and for bows. The fleshy cones of Juniperus communis are used to flavour gin.

Calocedrus decurrens is the main wood used to make wooden pencils and is also used for cupboards and chests. In China, cypress wood known as baimu or bomu,[12] was carved into furniture, using notably Cupressus funebris,[12] and particularly in tropical areas, Fujian cypress[13] and the aromatic wood of Glyptostrobus pensilis.[14] Native Americans and early European explorers used Thuja leaves as a cure for scurvy. Distillation of Fokienia roots produces an essential oil called pemou oil[15] used in medicine and cosmetics.[16]

Recent progress on Endophyte Biology in Cupressaceae, by the groups of Jalal Soltani (Bu-Ali Sina University) and Elizabeth Arnold (Arizona University) have revealed prevalent symbioses of endophytes and endofungal bacteria with family Cupressaceae. Furthermore, current and potential uses of Cupressaceous tree's endophytes in agroforestry and medicine is shown by both groups.


The Cupressaceae trees contain a wide range of extractives, especially terpenes and terpenoids,[17] which both have strong and often pleasant odors.

The heartwood, bark and leaves are the tree parts richest in terpenes.[18] Some of these compounds are widely distributed in other trees as well, and some are typical for Cupressaceae family. The most known terpenoids found in conifers are sesquiterpenoids, diterpenes and tropolones. Diterpens are commonly found in different types of conifers and are not typical for this family. Some sesquiterpenoids (e.g. bisabolanes, cubenanes, guaianes, ylanganes, himachalanes, longifolanes, longibornanes, longipinanes, cedranes, thujopsanes) also present in Pinaceae, Podocarpaceae and Taxodiaceae.[17] Meanwhile, chamigranes, cuparanes, widdranes and acoranes are more distinctive for Cupressaceae. Tropolone derivatives, such as nootkatin, chanootin and hinokitiol are particularly characteristic for Cupressaceae.

Disease vectors[edit]

The pollen of many genera of Cupressaceae is allergenic, causing major hay fever problems in areas where they are abundant,[19] most notably by Cryptomeria japonica (sugi) pollen in Japan.[20] Highly allergenic species of cypress with an OPALS allergy scale rating of 8 or higher include: Taxodium, Cupressus, Callitris, Chamaecyparis, and the males and monoicous variants of Austrocedrus and Widdringtonia.[21] However, the females of some species have a very low potential for causing allergies (an OPALS allergy scale rating of 2 or lower) including Austrocedrus females and Widdringtonia females.[21]

Several genera are an alternate host of Gymnosporangium rust, which damages apples and other related trees in the subfamily Maloideae.[22]


  1. ^ Watson, Frank D.; Eckenwalder, James E. (1993). "Cupressaceae". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). 2. New York and Oxford. Retrieved 6 September 2013 – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  2. ^ Bosma, Hylke F.; Kunzmann, Lutz; Kvaček, Jiří; van Konijnenburg-van Cittert, Johanna H.A. (August 2012). "Revision of the genus Cunninghamites (fossil conifers), with special reference to nomenclature, taxonomy and geological age". Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 182: 20–100200294924. doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2012.06.004.
  3. ^ Mao, K.; Milne, R. I.; Zhang, L.; Peng, Y.; Liu, J.; Thomas, P.; Mill, R. R.; S. Renner, S. (2012). "Distribution of living Cupressaceae reflects the breakup of Pangea". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109 (20): 7793–7798. Bibcode:2012PNAS..109.7793M. doi:10.1073/pnas.1114319109. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 3356613. PMID 22550176.
  4. ^ Qu, X. J.; Jin, J. J.; Chaw, S. M.; Li, D. Z.; Yi, T. S. (2017). "Multiple measures could alleviate long-branch attraction in phylogenomic reconstruction of Cupressoideae (Cupressaceae)". Scientific Reports. 7: 41005. Bibcode:2017NatSR...741005Q. doi:10.1038/srep41005. PMC 5264392. PMID 28120880.
  5. ^ a b c d e Armin Jagel, Veit Dörken: Morphology and morphogenesis of the seed cones of the Cupressaceae - part I. Cunninghamioideae, Athrotaxoideae, Taiwanioideae, Sequoioideae, Taxodioideae. In: Bulletin of the Cupressus Conservation Project, 3(3): 117-136 (PDF)
  6. ^ Armin Jagel, Veit Dörken: Morphology and morphogenesis of the seed cones of the Cupressaceae - part III. Callitroideae. In: Bulletin of the Cupressus Conservation Project 4(3): 91-103 (PDF)
  7. ^ Armin Jagel, Veit Dörken: Morphology and morphogenesis of the seed cones of the Cupressaceae - part II. Cupressoideae. In: Bulletin of the Cupressus Conservation Project 4(2): 51-78 (PDF)
  8. ^ Piggin, J.; Bruhl, J.J. (2010). "Phylogeny reconstruction of Callitris Vent. (Cupressaceae) and its allies leads to inclusion of Actinostrobus within Callitris". Australian Systematic Botany. 23 (2): 69–93. doi:10.1071/sb09044.
  9. ^ Gadek, P. A.; Alpers, D. L.; Heslewood, M. M.; Quinn, C. J. (2000). "Relationships within Cupressaceae sensu lato: a combined morphological and molecular approach". American Journal of Botany. 87: 1044–1057.
  10. ^ Farjon, A. (2005). Monograph of Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-068-4..
  11. ^ Xiang, Q.; Li, J. (2005). "Derivation of Xanthocyparis and Juniperus from within Cupressus: Evidence from Sequences of nrDNA Internal Transcribed Spacer Region". Harvard Papers in Botany. 9 (2): 375–382.
  12. ^ a b "Chinese Furniture Materials: Cypress (Baimu, Bomu) 柏木". Curtis Evarts. Archived from the original on 18 November 2000. citing Evarts, Curtis (1999). C. L. Ma Collection: Traditional Chinese Furniture from the Greater Shanxi Region. Hong Kong: C.L. Ma Furniture. ISBN 978-962-7956-19-8.
  13. ^ Thomas, P. & Yang, Y. (2013). "Fokienia hodginsii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T32351A2815809. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T32351A2815809.en.
  14. ^ Fu, Liguo; Yu, Yong-fu; Adams, Robert P.; Farjon, Aljos. "Glyptostrobus". Flora of China. 4 – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  15. ^ Weyerstahl, Peter; Marschall, Helga; Phan, Tong Son; Phan, Mhin Giang (1999). "Constituents of Vietnamese pemou oil—a reinvestigation". Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 14 (6): 409–410. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1026(199911/12)14:6<409::AID-FFJ843>3.0.CO;2-B.
  16. ^ Lesueur, Dominique; et al. (2006). "Analysis of the root oil of Fokienia hodginsii (Dunn) Henry et Thomas (Cupressaceae) by GC, GC–MS and 13C‐NMR". Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 21 (1): 171–174. doi:10.1002/ffj.1557.
  17. ^ a b Otto, Angelika; Wilde, Volker (April 2001). "Sesqui-, di-, and triterpenoids as chemosystematic markers in extant conifers—A review". The Botanical Review. 67 (2): 141–238. doi:10.1007/BF02858076.
  18. ^ Zhao, Jian Zhao and Jian (30 September 2007). "Plant Troponoids: Chemistry, Biological Activity, and Biosynthesis". Current Medicinal Chemistry. doi:10.2174/092986707782023253.
  19. ^ Charpin, Denis; et al. (2013). "Cypress pollen allergy". Revue des Maladies Respiratoires. 30 (10): 868–878. doi:10.1016/j.rmr.2013.09.014. PMID 24314710.
  20. ^ Krihara (Kurihashi), M. (1997). "Physiochemical and immunological characterization of major allergens of Japanese cedar pollen and false cypress pollen". Allergology (in Japanese). 3: 203–211.
  21. ^ a b Ogren, Thomas Leo (2015). The Allergy-Fighting Garden: Stop Asthma and Allergies with Smart Landscaping. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. ISBN 978-1-60774-491-7.
  22. ^ Kern, Frank D. (1973). "A host survey of Gymnosporangium". Mycopathologia et Mycologia Applicata. 51 (1): 99–101. doi:10.1007/BF02141290. S2CID 7875028.
  • Soltani, J. (2017) Endophytism in Cupressoideae (Coniferae): A Model in Endophyte Biology and Biotechnology. In: Maheshwari D. (eds) Endophytes: Biology and Biotechnology. pp. 127–143. Sustainable Development and Biodiversity, vol 15. Springer, Cham.
  • Pakvaz, S, Soltani J. (2016) Endohyphal bacteria from fungal endophytes of the Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) exhibit in vitro bioactivity. Forest Pathology, 46: 569–581.
  • Soltani, J., Zaheri Shoja, M., Hamzei, J., Hosseyni-Moghaddam, M.S., Pakvaz, S. (2016) Diversity and bioactivity of endophytic bacterial community of Cupressaceae. Forest Pathology, 46: 353–361.
  • Farjon, A. (1998). World Checklist and Bibliography of Conifers. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 300 p. ISBN 1-900347-54-7.
  • Farjon, A. (2005). Monograph of Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-068-4.
  • Farjon, A.; Hiep, N. T.; Harder, D. K.; Loc, P. K.; Averyanov, L. (2002). "A new genus and species in the Cupressaceae (Coniferales) from northern Vietnam, Xanthocyparis vietnamensis". Novon. 12 (2): 179–189. doi:10.2307/3392953. JSTOR 3392953.
  • Gadek, P. A., Alpers, D. L., Heslewood, M. M., & Quinn, C. J. (2000). Relationships within Cupressaceae sensu lato: a combined morphological and molecular approach. American Journal of Botany 87: 1044–1057. Available online.
  • Little, D. P., Schwarzbach, A. E., Adams, R. P. & Hsieh, Chang-Fu. (2004). The circumscription and phylogenetic relationships of Callitropsis and the newly described genus Xanthocyparis (Cupressaceae). American Journal of Botany 91 (11): 1872–1881. Available online.
  • Mao, K., Milne, R. I., Zhang, L., Peng, Y., Liu, J., Thomas, P., Mill, R. R. and S. S. Renner. (2012). Distribution of living Cupressaceae reflects the breakup of Pangea. Proceedings of the National Academy, USA 109(20): 7793-7798 -Open Access.
  • Arboretum de Villardebelle Cone images of many species
  • Gymnosperm Database: Cupressaceae
  • Flora of China - Cupressaceae
  • Flora of North America - Cupressaceae
  • ×Taxodiomeria peizhongii tree named 'Dongfangshan’ US PP17767 P3

External links[edit]