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Mediterranean cypress
Mediterranean Cypress foliage and cones
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnospermae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Cupressales
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Cupressus
Species:
C. sempervirens
Binomial name
Cupressus sempervirens
Green: probable natural range in the Mediterranean Basin
Orange: range including human introductions
Red (small areas): Residual natural stands

Cupressus sempervirens, the Mediterranean cypress (also known as Italian cypress,[1] Tuscan cypress, Persian cypress, or pencil pine), is a species of cypress native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Iran. Cupressus sempervirens is a seeded vascular plant. As a seeded plant, it uses seeds to reproduce.[2] While some studies show it has modern medicinal properties, it is most noted for uses in folk medicine, where the dried leaves of the plant are used for a variety of ailments.[3] It is well adapted to the conditions and the environment that it lives in due to the ability to survive in both acidic and alkaline soils, and withstand drought.[4] Cupressus sempervirens is widely present in culture, most notably in Iran, where it is both a sacred tree and is a metaphor for "the graceful figure of the beloved".[5]

Description

Cupressus sempervirens is a medium-sized coniferous evergreen tree to 35 m (115 ft) tall, with a conic crown with level branches and variably loosely hanging branchlets.[6] It is very long-lived, with some trees reported to be over 1,000 years old.[7]

The foliage grows in dense sprays, which are dark green in colour. The leaves are scale-like, 2–5 mm long, and produced on rounded (not flattened) shoots. The seed cones are ovoid or oblong, 25–40 mm long, with 10-14 scales, which are green at first, and mature to brown about 20–24 months after pollination. The male cones are 3–5 mm long, and release pollen in late winter. The cones of C. sempervirens can withstand years of being sealed.[2] It is moderately susceptible to cypress canker, caused by the fungus Seiridium cardinale, and can suffer extensive dieback where this disease is common. The species name sempervirens comes from the Latin for 'evergreen'.[8]

Cupressis sempervirens produces lateral shoots, or branches, which often grow upwards towards a light source.[9] Cones of C. sempervirens can remain sealed for long periods of time, and are known to perform serotiny.[2]

Uses

Mediterranean cypress has been widely cultivated as an ornamental tree for millennia outside of its native range, mainly throughout the whole Mediterranean region, and in other areas with similar hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters, including California, southwest South Africa, and southern Australia. It can also be grown successfully in areas with cooler, moister summers, such as the British Isles, New Zealand, and the Pacific Northwest. It is also planted in Florida and parts of the coastal southern United States as an ornamental tree. In some areas, particularly the United States, it is known as "Italian" or "Tuscan cypress". Commonly seen throughout New Mexico, the Mediterranean cypress is also known as the "drama tree" because of its tendency to bend with even the slightest of breezes.[citation needed] Within its native range, the Mediterranean cypress has been historically planted in gardens and cemeteries, and used as a windbreak alongside roads.[10]

4000-year-old Cypress of Abarkuh, Iran

The vast majority of the trees in cultivation are selected cultivars with a fastigiate crown, with erect branches forming a narrow to very narrow crown often less than a tenth as wide as the tree is tall. The dark green "exclamation mark" shape of these trees is a highly characteristic signature of Mediterranean town and village landscapes. Formerly, the species was sometimes separated into two varieties, the wild C. sempervirens var. sempervirens (syn. var. horizontalis), and the fastigiate C. s. var. pyramidalis (syn. var. fastigiata, var. stricta), but the latter is now only distinguished as a Cultivar Group, with no botanical significance.[citation needed]

It is also known for its very durable, scented wood, used most famously for the doors of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, Rome. Cypress used to be used in distilleries as staves to hold mash ferments to make alcohol before the invention of stainless steel.[citation needed]

In cosmetics it is used as astringent, firming, anti-seborrheic, anti-dandruff, anti-aging and as fragrance.[11] It is also the traditional wood used for Italian harpsichords.[12]

Cone dispersal with seeds of Cupressus sempervirens

C. sempervirens finds a litany of uses including as wood, in traditional medicine, and for other therapeutic purposes. The wood is insect-repellent; hence its use in furniture—i.e. for pantry cabinets—while the cypress's oil is marketed as massage liniment.

The dry seeds that come from the Cupressus sempervirens are sometimes used to help people control their skin conditions such as acne, and are of use in healing cuts or scrapes.[3] The oil that comes from the leaves of the plant can aid in recovery from minor ailments like nose congestion.[3] It can also prevent damage to land caused by violent weather.[13]

Habitats

Cupressus sempervirens grows primarily in places with wet winters and hot summers; in the spring and autumn, the tree grows out its roots, stems, and leaves.[4] Like most plants, Cupressus sempervirens requires light for such growth.[7] Due to the fact that the tree must survive wet winters and hot, dry summers, its roots are adapted to be stout and shallow, for easier gathering of the material and nutrients that the soil provides for them.[4] The roots of Cupressus sempervirens are adapted to function effortlessly in either low or high pH environments.[3]

In culture

Iran

Stylized Cypress Trees from Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran. One of the three varieties of C. sempervirens native to Iran is called the Shirazi Cypress.

In Persian, C. sempervirens is called the "Graceful Cypress" (sarv-e nāz), and has a distinguished presence in culture, poetry and gardens. It bears several metaphors, including the "graceful figure and stately gait of [the] beloved".[5] Iranians considered cypress to be a relic of Zoroaster. A Zoroastrian tradition recorded by Daqiqi maintains that King Vishtaspa, after converting to Zoroastrianism, ordered a cypress brought from paradise by Zoroaster to be planted near the first fire temple.[5]

In the words of the Shahnameh, cypress represents a single-minded, professional and wise man. In ancient Iran, during Yaldā Night, a Yalda tree was decorated, which was generally made of cypress and pine trees. It is said that the decoration of cypress and pine around Christmas was adapted from ancient Iran The Iranians viewed these two trees, especially the cypress, as a symbol of resistance against darkness and cold. Traditionally, they would stand in front of the cypress on the first day of January, and vow to be strong and stable until the next year, when another sapling would be planted. According to Iranian beliefs, greens at the beginning of the year are a sign of blessing throughout that year, and based on this belief, the custom of planting greens at the beginning of the year and at the same time as the Nowruz celebration gradually replaced the Cypress tree. Cypress, specifically C. sempervirens, was the first choice for Iranian gardens. In all of the famous Persian Gardens, such as Fin Garden, Shazdeh Garden, Dowlat-Abad, and others, this tree plays a central role in their design.[citation needed] The oldest living cypress is the Sarv-e-Abarkooh in Iran's Yazd Province. Its age is estimated to be approximately 4,000 years.[14][failed verification]

Symbolism

In classical antiquity, the cypress was a symbol of mourning, and in the modern era it remains the principal cemetery tree in both the Muslim world and Europe. In the classical tradition, the cypress was associated with death and the underworld because it failed to regenerate when cut back too severely. Athenian households in mourning were garlanded with boughs of cypress.[15] Cypress was used to fumigate the air during cremations.[16] It was among the plants that were suitable for making wreaths to adorn statues of Pluto, the classical ruler of the underworld.[17]

The poet Ovid, who wrote during the reign of Augustus, records the best-known myth that explains the association of the cypress with grief. The handsome boy Cyparissus, a favorite of Apollo, accidentally killed a beloved tame stag. His grief and remorse were so inconsolable that he asked to weep forever. He was transformed into a cypress tree, with the tree's sap as his tears.[18] In another version of the story, it was the woodland god Silvanus who was the divine companion of Cyparissus and accidentally killed the stag. When the boy was consumed by grief, Silvanus turned him into a tree, and thereafter carried a branch of cypress as a symbol of mourning.[19]

The cypress is also associated with Artemis and Hecate. Ancient Roman funerary rites used it extensively.[citation needed]

In Turkey, Istanbul's Karacaahmet Cemetery uses the tree extensively.; in Istanbul Turkish the tree is referred to as "mezarlık servisi" (cemetery tree). Its common name in Turkish and the name used in Turkish forestry is "kara selvi" (black cypress). Cypresses are mentioned extensively in the Shahnameh, the great Iranian epic poem by Ferdowsi.[citation needed]

In Jewish tradition, the cypress was held to be the wood used to build Noah's Ark and The Temple, and is mentioned as an idiom or metaphor in biblical passages, either referencing the tree's shape as an example of uprightness or its evergreen nature as an example of eternal beauty or health. It is popular in modern Israeli cemeteries, with contemporary explanation being that its shape resembles a candle and its evergreen nature symbolizes the immortality of the soul.[citation needed]

In popular culture the Italian cypress is often stereotypically associated with vacation destinations to the Mediterranean region; Italy in particular. The tree has been seen on travel posters for decades.[20][21]

Other characteristics

In July 2012, a forest fire, lasting five days, devastated 20,000 hectares of forest in the Valencian village of Andilla. However, amid the charred landscape, a group of 946 cypress trees about 22 years old was virtually unharmed, and only 12 cypresses were burned. Andilla cypresses were planted by the CypFire European project studying various aspects of the cypresses, including fire resistance.[22]

References

  1. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  2. ^ a b c "Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean cypress) description". www.conifers.org. Retrieved 2023-10-17.
  3. ^ a b c d Selim, Samy A; Adam, Mohammed E; Hassan, Sherif M; Albalawi, Abdulrhman R (December 2014). "Chemical composition, antimicrobial and antibiofilm activity of the essential oil and methanol extract of the Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervirens L.)". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 14 (1): 179. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-179. ISSN 1472-6882. PMC 4052795. PMID 24890383.
  4. ^ a b c "Supporting EFSA assessment of the EU environmental suitability for exotic forestry pests: Final Report". EFSA Supporting Publications. 11 (3). March 2014. doi:10.2903/sp.efsa.2014.en-434. ISSN 2397-8325.
  5. ^ a b c Aʿlam, Hūšang (2020-08-30), "CYPRESS", Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, Brill, retrieved 2023-10-30
  6. ^ See also Uses section for the differing cultivated variants
  7. ^ a b Mauri, Achille; Girardello, Marco; Strona, Giovanni; Beck, Pieter S. A.; Forzieri, Giovanni; Caudullo, Giovanni; Manca, Federica; Cescatti, Alessandro (2022-02-03). "EU-Trees4F, a dataset on the future distribution of European tree species". Scientific Data. 9 (1): 37. Bibcode:2022NatSD...9...37M. doi:10.1038/s41597-022-01128-5. ISSN 2052-4463. PMC 8813948. PMID 35115529.
  8. ^ Rojas-Sandova, J (2022-01-07). Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean cypress) (Report). doi:10.1079/cabicompendium.17105.
  9. ^ Weick, Cynthia Wagner; Aamir, Naela; Reichart, Jayme (June 2023). "The Ethnobotanical Evolution of the Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)". Economic Botany. 77 (2): 203–221. doi:10.1007/s12231-023-09570-1. ISSN 0013-0001. S2CID 257968346.
  10. ^ Caudullo, G; de Rigo, D. (2016). "Cupressus sempervirens in Europe: distribution, habitat, usage and threats" (PDF). European Atlas of Forest Tree Species.
  11. ^ Carrasco, F. (2009). "Ingredientes Cosméticos". Diccionario de Ingredientes\ 4ª Ed. www.imagenpersonal.net. p. 267. ISBN 978-84-613-4979-1.
  12. ^ Hubbard, Frank (1965). Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making. Harvard University Press. p. 201. ISBN 0-674-88845-6.
  13. ^ Orhan, Ilkay Erdogan; Tumen, Ibrahim (2015), "Potential of Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean Cypress) in Health", The Mediterranean Diet, Elsevier: 639–647, doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-407849-9.00057-9, ISBN 978-0-12-407849-9, PMC 7149725
  14. ^ Craig Glenday, ed. (2011). Guinness World Records. BANTAM DELL. p. 95. ISBN 9781904994671.
  15. ^ Servius, note to Vergil's Aeneid 3.680.
  16. ^ Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae 17.7.34.
  17. ^ Natalis Comes, Mythologiae 2.9.
  18. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.106ff.
  19. ^ Servius, note to Vergil's Georgics 1.20.
  20. ^ "Image: Italian_Lakes,_travel_poster_for_ENIT,_ca._1930.jpg, (3091 × 5015 px)". upload.wikimedia.org. 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2015-09-06.
  21. ^ "Image: 01422-2T.jpg, (300 × 453 px)". postercorner.com. Archived from the original on 2015-02-22. Retrieved 2015-09-06.
  22. ^ "The curious case of Valencia's flameproof cypresses". sociedad.elpais.com. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 2015-09-06.

Further reading