Cupressus sempervirens


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Cupressus sempervirens
Species Authority: L.
Common Name(s):
English Mediterranean Cypress, Italian Cypress
Cupressus sempervirens L. subspecies horizontalis (Mill.) A.Camus
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety sphaerocarps (Parl.) Parl.
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety umbilicata (Parl.) Parl.
Cupressus sempervirens L. forma stricta (Aiton) Rehder
Cupressus sempervirens L. subspecies indica (Parl.) Silba
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety atlantica (Gaussen) Silba
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety dupreziana (Camus) Silba
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety globulifera Parl.
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety horizontalis (Mill.) Loudon
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety indica Parl.
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety numidica Trab.
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety pendula (Endl.) A.Camus
Cupressus sempervirens L. variety stricta Aiton
Taxonomic Notes: The columnar, fastigiate form of this cypress, an iconic feature of the (urban) landscape in the Mediterranean, is not to be equated with the true species. Linnaeus’s type specimen is from Crete and belonged to a tree that grew in the wild and most probably did not have this form. The columnar form is best considered a cultigen. It is not here included in the species.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2011-07-15
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P.
This species in its uncultivated form is very widespread but scattered; large and viable subpopulations exist as well as relict trees without successful reproduction in situ. It will certainly be of regional concern, e.g. in Israel and Lebanon, but globally it is still too abundant to be threatened with extinction. Exploitation has largely ceased, except local use for firewood in wood-deficient areas.
1997 Not Threatened (Walter and Gillett 1998)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is found in the eastern Mediterranean: Crete, Cyprus, East Aegean Is., Greece (?); N Africa: Libya; Western Asia: Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey [W Mediterranean distribution based on cultigens].
Cyprus; Greece (East Aegean Is., Greece (mainland) - Present - Origin Uncertain, Kriti); Iran, Islamic Republic of; Israel; Jordan; Lebanon; Libya; Turkey
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The global population of this species is very scattered, with sometimes extensive stands as seen in southern Turkey, but often few trees or even solitary trees.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This cypress grows in maquis and in pine or juniper woodland associated with Pinus brutia, Juniperus excelsa, J. foetidissima, J. drupacea, J. phoenicea, Quercus spp., Pistacia atlantica, Amygdalus scoparia, and Poterium spinosum; in rocky soil mostly over limestone on slopes and in gorges, occasionally igneous rock. In its natural habitat occurs from 90 m to 1700 m a.s.l. The climate is Mediterranean with dry, hot summers and winter rain, or semi-arid in more interior (eastern) parts of its range.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: There is a long history of exploitation going back to the times of the ancient East Mediterranean and Levantian civilisations. First, its wood was valued for its resistance to decay, later it also became an ornamental. This latter use has led to widespread introduction throughout the Mediterranean at least from Roman times to the present. In many villages and towns the fastigiate, columnar, or conical form is a very characteristic feature of the coastal and urban landscapes. In several localities it regenerates spontaneously, but the fastigiate habit betrays its cultivated origin. These old cultivars can be quite hardy and withstand snow and frost to -20º C or even lower. A few modern cultivars, some dating from the nineteenth century, are known but rare in cultivation.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species in a narrow sense (i.e. excluding cultivated forms) is widespread but scattered in the Middle East and quite rare in the most western parts of its range. The long history of both exploitation of its wood, which has led to decline, and introduction with cultivation, which has led to the spread of a fastigiate growth form across the Mediterranean and beyond, makes a true assessment of its status very difficult. It is, however, considered sufficiently abundant even in the truly wild form to be not in danger of extinction.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is present in several protected areas.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2013. Cupressus sempervirens. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 31 March 2015.
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