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A tree up to 100 ft high in the wild and almost as high in the British Isles, with wide-spreading branches and pendulous spray; the branching not two ranked, but spiral and irregular. Branchlets four-sided. Leaves in four rows, scale-like, 1⁄16 to 1⁄12 in. long, with the terminal part elongated, triangular, finely and sharply pointed, free at the tip. Cones very glaucous, and about the size of peas the first year; scales six or eight, with a conical, hooked crest in the centre; the cones become 1⁄2 in. in diameter, and shed their seeds the second year, and lose much of their glaucous hue. Seeds brown with conspicuous resinous warts. Bot. Mag., t. 9434.
The native country of this cypress was long a matter of speculation. It appears to have been cultivated in England since the latter half of the seventeenth century, having been first introduced from Portugal; hence the epithet lusitanica. But it was never found wild either in Portugal or the Portuguese settlement of Goa in Western India, in spite of its common name. It is now certain that it is a native of Mexico, and was, no doubt, introduced to the Peninsula by mariners or members of the religious fraternities, probably in the sixteenth century. The first direct introduction from Mexico was in the forties of the last century. The most celebrated plantation of C. lusitanica is at Busaco, in Portugal.
It should be added that Martinez (Las Pinaceas Mexicanas, 1963) does not recognise C. lusitanica as a native of Mexico. The native Mexican trees which most botanists now consider to belong to this species are treated by him under the name C. lindleyi Klotzsch.
For the northern and eastern parts of the country this tree is not suited. In southern England there are good specimens from Sussex westward, but it is in the south-west and in Ireland that it thrives the best. In England there are trees of 70 to 80 ft in height and 41⁄2 to 6 ft in girth at Leonardslee and Wakehurst Place, Sussex; Blackmoor, Hants; Killerton, Devon; and The Hendre, Mon. (measured 1961-5). At Wisley there is a specimen about 45 ft high; it was untouched by the winter of 1962-3. The tallest known is an unhealthy tree at Bicton in Devon, which is 102 ft in height. In Ireland the best trees so far recorded are in the same height range as the English, but generally of larger girth. These are at Fota, Co. Cork; Inishtioge, Co. Kilkenny; Birr Castle, Co. Offaly (from seed collected by Coulter in Mexico in 1837); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow; and, in Northern Ireland, at Castlewellan, Co. Down.
specimens: Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden, Wisley, Surrey, 80 × 31⁄2 ft and 62 × 4 ft (1981); Borde Hill, Sussex, Stonepit Wood, 80 × 53⁄4 ft and 84 × 71⁄4 ft (1981); Leonardslee, Sussex, 72 × 6 ft (1984); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 70 × 71⁄2 ft (1980); Bicton, Devon, 72 × 63⁄4 ft and 88 × 81⁄2 ft (1977); Kilmacurragh, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 84 × 91⁄4 ft (1980); Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Eire, 62 × 63⁄4 ft (1980).
var. benthamii - specimens: Bicton, Devon, 98 × 81⁄2 ft (1977); Tregrehan, Cornwall, 98 × 73⁄4 ft (1979).
Casualties among trees of C. lusitanica have been very high. Alan Mitchell tells us that very few specimens measured by him in the years 1955-70 still exist, and none of those mentioned by Elwes and Henry early this century, nor even in the Conifer Conference returns of 1932, have survived.
cv. ‘Glauca Pendula’. – The example at Glendurgan, Cornwall, measures 60 × 53⁄4 ft (1984).
C. benthamii Endl.
C. thurifera Schlecht., not H. B. K