Callitropsis macrocarpa (Monterey cypress)

Monterey cypress is paleoendemic, meaning these trees had a large distribution 15,000 years ago when the Pleistocene ended. Now, they are native to a small area near Monterey, California at Cypress Point and Point Lobos, though have naturalized in other regions. Macroacarpa means large seeds, and Monterey cypress cones are like green-reddish-brown sacred geometric globes or faceted gemstones with tiny nubs on each facet. This is one of largest trees in the Cupressus genus, with one measuring 150 feet high, though the largest individuals are not growing in native habitat. They do well in foggy coastal places with salty air. They are listed as Category 1, rare and endangered species, but do not appear on the federal list which doesn’t distinguish between planted and natural populations. They can live around 400 years, though typically live to 200. Cypress wood makes excellent cabinets and musical instruments.

Lace lichen grows on cypresses at Point Lobos, which like all lichen, are partnerships between fungi and algae. The algae in lace lichen is called Trentepohlia, which is called a green algae though beta carotene elicits an orange color. The lichen condenses water from fog which drips, watering trees during the dry season. This is a mutualism, as trees provide structure for the lichen. These cypresses are somewhat dependent on fire to open their cones, though hot days will also open them. In their native area near Monterey, a lack of fire has reduced regeneration, and prescribed burns will be needed to maintain this population. The most common associate is the Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), which also naturally occurs in only three places but is widely planted for timber and as ornamental.

Elizabeth Oriel 2022