Plant of the day: Monterey cypress

The dark silhouettes of Monterey cypress are a signature of the central California coast; the sweeping limbs and twisted trunks of these beautiful trees seem to physically embody the stark extremes of our climate. Though this cypress has been planted widely throughout the world, it is in some ways a tremendously rare tree–there are only two natural, wild groves, both of which are near Monterey.

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Yet because it is lovely–and grows fast–there’s no danger that this tree will go extinct. From its humble roots, Monterey cypress (Hesperocyparis macrocarpa, formerly known as Cupressus macrocarpa) has spread to Hawaii, Europe, South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. All by the hand of humans, of course. It’s main use is ornamental, but is grown for pulp wood in some of those places.

In California you’ll often see a line of these cypress growing in a seemingly desolate wilderness–this is a sign of a former homestead, where those living in the now-vanished house planted them as a windbreak, and a sign of civilization.

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