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Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Cypress Family [Cupressaceae]

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29th Jan 2014, Rydal, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A columnar to slightly-tapering resinous tree that grows to 65m and smells of parsley. British specimens haven't been planted long enough to reach full height yet and the tallest are about 40m.

11th Jan 2014, Bridgewater Canal, Altrincham, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The twigs are multiply branched, thin and hang downwards (unlike Leyland Cypress where they are partially held aloft). They are also held planar. In January they have small black tips, being either nascent male or female cones.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
  In early spring the black tips elongate into male and female flowers; the lowest ones on the twigs are female flowers and yellowish whilst the male flowers higher.

10th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
 A plethora of male flowers, red with blackened scales.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
  Female flowers are greenish blue at first, turning yellowish with black scales, and are wider but half as long as the male flowers at the top.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
  Size comparison, yellow female and red male flowers.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
  The scale-like leaves are green and rhomboidal, appressed to the hidden twigs underneath. It is possible that the terminations at the top of the photo are as-yet undeveloped female flowers, since they are yellowish.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
 The male flowers have black scales surrounded by numerous smaller spherical red objects.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
 As the male flowers ripen they grow longer and open up.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
 A fully opened male cone (up to 4mm long) and ready to shed pollen in March.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
 Female flowers.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
 Like the leaves, the yellowish scales with blackened tips of the female flowers are decussate: (nested, opposite each other in pairs, with another nesting pair at right angles, repeated a few times).

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
 The organs of the female flowers are tiny and pale yellow.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
 Last-years' fruiting cones; it is very ripe, and probably lost most of its tiny seeds.

24th March 2014, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The decussate scale-like leaves wrapped around the twigs. Each leaf is white underneath with white edges visible and a darker oval dimple near the centre.

29th Jan 2014, Rydal, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The bark cracks vertically into long plates. This specimen has had lower branches pruned.

Not to be semantically confused with : Cyprus [a country with similar name].

Not to be confused with : trees of the Genus Cupressus which are the true cypresses possessing larger mature cones and which generally take two years to mature rather than the one of those in the Chamaecyparis genus, such as Lawson's Cypress. Also, the twiggy sprays are not planar (as are those in the Chamaecyparis genus), but branch out three dimensions. True Cypresses include Monterey Cyprus (Cupressus macrocarpa), Mexican Cyprus (Cupressus lindleyi) and Italian Cyprus (Cupressus sempervirens). Monterey Cypress is planted in parks and gardens and is an introduced-naturalised species which self-seeds in Scilly, Jersey and Southern Ireland.

The specimen shown above growing in a garden in Walkden is probably the 'Lane' (1938) cultivar, which is common in small gardens since it grows to just 20m with yellower green leaves on the south side than is Lawson's Cypress (but a darker green on the sunless side) and forms a neat stumpy column. The specimen in Rydal is much taller and probably a true Lawson's Cypress.

Easily mis-identified as the hybrid Leyland Cypress (X Chamaecyparis leylandii) but the foliage of that does not hang downwards but is more upright. Also, the twigs are more stubby than those of Lawson's Cypress and, although dioecious, male or female flowers rarely develop. The (larger) ripe cone of Leyland Cypress has a conical wart in the middle of each scale which is absent on Lawson's Cypress.

Some similarities to : Nootka Cypress (previously Chamaecyparis nootkatensis another non-native cultivar planted in the UK but which has now been moved into the Xanthocyparis genus and is now called Xanthocyparis nootkatensis). This tree has very much more resinous and somewhat unpleasant smell when crushed, containing many terpenoids. The male flowers are yellow rather than the red of Lawson's Cypress.

It is not native to the UK but is native to Western USA and introduced into the UK in 1854 and is now common in parks and gardens. Many cultivars exist, some with glaucous blue-grey leafy-scales, others a golden or lime-green to rich-gold colour. In the USA it is known as 'Port Orford Cedar', 'Oregon Cedar' and 'Rose of Cedar' and the wood as 'Cedarwood' but it is not a Cedar!

It often sets seeds itself, as does Leyland Cypress despite the latters' reluctance to flower.

The volatile fractions of the tree contains the acetate of the ralatively rare sesquiterpenoid Oplopanone, as well as the diterpene Hybaene (which must have another name since your Author cannot find the structural formula for this), amongst many other compounds.

A total of 66 compounds representing 99% of the oil have been identified in the essential oil, mostly monoterpenes rather than sesquiterpenes. Limonene is quoted as being the main constituent of the oil, accounting for 77.7% of it. The others are p-cymene-7-ol (3.0%), Myrcene (2.4%), Camphor (2.1%), δ-Elemene (1.6%), Oplopanonyl Acetate (1.6%), Methyl Perillate (1.3%), Terpen-4-ol (1.0%) and β-Oplopanone.

The latter figure of 77% for Limonene seems very high compared to another source which lists the constituents of the Essential Oil as:
14.3% α-Terpenol, 8.2% δ-Cadinene, 6.5% α-Pinene, 5.9% Camphor, 5.5% α-Fenchol, 5.3% α-Cadinol, 4.7% Fenchone, 4.2% α-Muurolene, 3.4% Tau-Cadinol (which is a stereoisomer of α-Cadinol), 3.3% β-Terpenol, only 2.7% (+)-Limonene, 2.7% Tau-Muurolol (another stereoisomer of α-Cadinol) 2.3% Citronellol, 1.9% α-Amorphene 1.6% Terpinolene, 1.4% IsoPulegol, 1.3% Borneol, 1.3% Camphene, 1.3% Eucalyptol (aka p-Cineole, ) 1.3% p-Cymene, 1.0% p-Cymenene, 1.0% β-Elemene and 1.0% Myrtenol.

But your Author guesses it all depends upon the time of year the extract is made, where the tree was growing, amidst which other trees, the climate, and a host of other imponderable variables such as soil type and any symbiotic or unilateral association with particular underground fungi.

  Chamaecyparis lawsoniana  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Cupressaceae  

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Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Cypress Family [Cupressaceae]