Lawson Cypress Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

The Lawson Cypress, a conifer native to California and Oregon, was introduced to Britain in 1854, when seeds were planted at the Lawson Nursery in Edinburgh. Since then natural varieties have been selected and bred to produce many different shapes and colours known as ‘cultivars’. The Lawson Cypress can be found in churchyards, parks and hedges and as ‘cultivars’ is very common in suburban gardens. The leaves are in the form of flat ‘sprays’ which are most likely to be confused with those of the Western Red Cedar but the cones are quite different. 

Cypress is a common name for a number of conifer species. Some are called ‘True’ Cypresses and are in the genus Cupressus e.g.  Italian Cypress, Monterey Cypress and Smooth Arizona Cypress, some are called ‘False’ Cypresses and are in the genus Chameacyparis e.g Lawson Cypress, Nootka Cypress, Hinoki Cypress and Sawara Cypress. One is a hybrid – Leyland Cypress and the Swamp Cypress is unrelated in a completely different family Taxodium.

lawson cypress

Mature Lawson Cypress

lawson cypress  spray

The scale-like leaves of the Lawson Cypress are on flat sprays like this. The upper side of the spray looks like this and is dark green. The underside is pale green with white lines.

lawson cypress  needle close-up

Close-up of the scale-like leaves, which are in fours, cover the shoots and have white markings underneath as shown here. There is a spot in the middle of each scale that lets light through.

lawson cypress  cones

Cones in April when they have turned grey. Some trees have large numbers of cones.

lawson cypress cone and seeds

Cone in October ready to shed some seeds.

lawson cypress cone and seeds

Close-up of a cone showing the seeds between the cone scales. Each cone is only 7mm across.

lawson cypress  cone and seeds

Close-up of the cone and tiny seeds.

lawson cypress bark

Bark of an old tree cracked into plates.