Cupressus cashmeriana / Kashmir cypress

Cupressus cashmeriana, as described in 1867 by Royle ex Élie-Abel Carrière (1818 - 1896), in Traité général des conifères, vol.2, is commonly known as Kashmir or Himalayan cypress; as well as Tsenden in the Bhutanese language. The species name recognizes it as the endemic cypress of the eastern Himalaya. The Bhutanese consider the cypress tree sacred and held it in great reverence.

Description. Kashmir cypress is an large-growing, evergreen, coniferous species of tree that grows to mature heights of 300 feet (95 m) tall, with a single straight trunk that measures 12 feet (350 cm) in diameter, measured at breast height, with a conical crown in young trees, becoming broad and irregular in old trees.

  • Branches are sinusoidal, proximally ascending, and distally drooping.
  • Bark is smooth at first, exfoliating in thin strips, later becoming fibrous, and red-brown with a purple-brown inner bark.
  • Twigs are slightly flattened, slender, drooping, and alternating; forming planar, frondose sprays.
  • Leaves are scale-like, decussate, imbricate, appressed, and dimorphic with facials slightly smaller than laterals. Leaves on the smallest branches measure 0.056 to 0.12 inch (1.4 - 3 mm) long and 0.02 to 0.04 inch (0.5 - 1mm) wide, except up to 0.48 by 0.08 inch (12 × 2mm) on whip shoots. Leaf margins are entire, with conspicuous glands on facial leaves. Stomata are mostly found at the margins near leaf bases. Needles tend toward green in color, but vary in level of glaucousness.
  • Pollen and seed cones borne on different branches. Pollen cones are produced solitary, and terminal, measuring 0.16 to 0.24 inch (4 - 6 mm) long and 0.08 to 0.1 inch (2 - 2.5 mm) wide, colored yellow-green when young, turning light brown, consisting of 10 to 16 microsporophylls.
  • Seed cones are produced solitary or in small groups near branch ends, taking two seasons to mature. Seed cones are of subglobose shape, measuring 0.48 to 0.84 inch (12 - 21mm) long and 0.4 to 0.96 inch (10 - 19 mm) long, colored green when young, maturing dark brown; bracts number 4 to 5. They are angular, and centrally depressed with a circa 0.04 inch (1 mm) long protruding bract tip; about 10 seeds on each scale.

Distribution. This species is native to Bhutan; India — Arunachal Pradesh; also, widely planted near temples in eastern Nepal, Sikkim, and Tibet. In its native range, the climate is monsoonal with 32 to 78 inches (800 - 2,000) mm annual precipitation. Grows at elevations of 4,100 feet (1,250 - 2,670 m) above sea level, mainly as an emergent in evergreen hardwood forests dominated by Quercus spp. but it can also form pure stands on limestone cliffs. Near its upper elevation limits, it associates with Tsuga dumosa.

Hardy to USDA Zone 9 (20 to 30ºF / -1.1 to -6.7ºC), and has evolved to thrive in areas with a cold climate, high rainfall, clouds and high humidity

Cupressus cashmeriana — a young specimen in a private garden in Petaluma, California (USDA Zone 9b / Mediterranean climate).
Photo by Sara Malone
Cupressus cashmeriana — a closeup of foliage, seed, and pollens cones.
Photo by Sara Malone
Cupressus cashmeriana — a closeup of foliage detail.
Photo by Sara Malone