Chamaecyparis pisifera foliage and cones
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Chamaecyparis

See text

Chamaecyparis [1] is a genus of conifers in the cypress family Cupressaceae, native to eastern Asia and western and eastern North America. In the nursery trade it is often incorrectly known as "false cypress" for lack of other common name, so as to distinguish it from other similar genera bearing cypress in their common names. See cypress (disambiguation). Synonyms include Retinispora Siebold & Zucc. and Retinospora Carr. The name is derived from the Greek khamai, meaning ground, and kuparissos for cypress.

They are medium-sized to large evergreen trees growing from 60 to over 200 feet (20-70 m) tall, with foliage in flat sprays. The leaves are of two types, needle-like juvenile leaves on young seedlings up to a year old, and scale-like adult leaves. The cones are globose to oval, with 8-14 scales arranged in opposite decussate pairs; each scale bears 2-4 small seeds.

There are five or six living species, depending on taxonomic opinion:

C. taiwanensis is treated by many authors as a variety of C. obtusa (as C. obtusa var. formosana).

There are also several species described from the fossil record including:[2]

Another species which used to be included in this genus, as Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, has now been transferred on the basis of strong genetic and morphological evidence to the separate genus Callitropsis as Callitropsis nootkatensis, or back to Cupressus nootkatensis (the name it was originally described under in 1824).

Chamaecyparis species are used as food plants by the larva of some Lepidoptera species including Juniper Pug and Pine Beauty.

Cultivation and usesEdit

Four species (C. lawsoniana, C. obtusa, C. pisifera, and C. thyoides) are of considerable importance as ornamental trees in horticulture; several hundred cultivars have been selected for various traits, including dwarf size, yellow, blue, silvery or variegated foliage, permanent retention of juvenile leaves, and thread-like shoots with reduced branching. In some areas, cultivation is limited by Phytophthora root rot diseases, with C. lawsoniana being particularly susceptible to P. lateralis.

The wood is scented, and is highly valued, particularly in Japan, where it is used for temple construction.


  1. Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. Template:Cite journal

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