Monterey Cypress Trees

By Garik Iosilevsky, Intern

Try to think about the strangest looking tree that you have ever seen. I am sure that the one you are thinking of looks funny, but I doubt it looks as odd as the Monterey Cypress Tree (scientific name: cupressus macrocarpa). This special tree only grows naturally in two places in the world! The amazing thing is that those two places are so close to where we live. The only naturally occurring stands of this native species are just a short drive south of the San Francisco Bay area, in Carmel and Pebble Beach. Monterey Cypress trees can grow to be over 80 feet tall, but most of them are short because they grow on rocky surfaces near the shore. Another cool thing about this species is that the trees can live to be about 300 years old.

Their location is what determines what these trees look like. No two Monterey Cypress trees look identical, and that is because the weather and soil conditions that they live in change their shape and size. For example, at Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel, there is a Monterey Cypress tree called "The Old Veteran". This tree is very old, short and looks very strange. This is because it grows in very infertile soil, and it has been exposed to constant wind and storms its entire life. As an adaptation to these extreme weather conditions, the trunk, protruded roots, and leaf formation of this tree has been warped, which gives it a very unique appearance.

There is another very famous Monterey Cypress tree in Pebble Beach known as "The Lone Cypress". This tree has been standing alone on its rocky perch for over 250 years, and it is the corporate logo of the Pebble Beach Company. This tree is so important to the people that live there, that they even added cables to tie it down so that it will not fall off. Monterey Cypress trees are very important to the Monterey Bay area, and although they only grow there naturally, that does not mean they do not exist elsewhere. This species is very popular as a decorative tree, and people plant them in many other places all over the world!