A large tree, extremely variable in habit but mostly conical, sometimes attaining a height of up to 20 m. Bark reddish-brown, fissured. Branches widespread. Branchlets generally pendulous at the tips, mostly divided twice with the tips square in section. Leaves pointed, ridged on back, tip slightly spreading, grey to waxy blue-grey, glands inconspicuous. Cones 1-1.5 cm wide, conspicuously waxy white; scales 6-8, strongly pointed when young becoming a shiny purplish-brown in the second year. Seeds smooth, shiny brown.
Extremely variable in habit and intergrading with C. glabra and C. arizonica but always with waxy white cone scales. This species is known to hybridise with C. macrocarpa. The name C. lusitanica was coined by its author, Miller, for a tree known in English gardens since 1682 which he believed was a native of Portugal where it had been known since the mid 1600's (and presumably why he chose the epithet lusitanica). Later introduction of cypresses from Mexico into cultivation in Europe and elsewhere indicated that C. lusitanica originated from Mexico not Portugal. Some authorities consider the material from which early collections were made to be inadequate for satisfactory identification and propose the name Cupressus benthamii Zanoni for the Mexican tree with var. benthamii from N. Mexico having flattened branchlets and var. lindleyi (Klotzch) Mast. having angular branchlets.
Mexico & Montane Guatemala.
Foliage bluish green; leaves pointed and ridged, with inconspicuous glands; cones waxy white. Similar to the relatively rarely cultivated C. arizonica from which it can usually be distinguished by its pendulous branchlets, bluer leaves, and more waxy white and less pointed cone scales, although possible hybrids between these species may be encountered.
McClintock (1987); Farjon (1993).
SA: Mt Gambier (Bot. Gds; Vansittart Park commemorative Rotary tree ptd 1934 as Arizona Cypress); Penola (Yallum Park). ACT: CSIRO Division of Wildlife (ptd c. 1890); Griffith (preschool park ptd c. 1930; Manuka Swimming Pool, 2 trees ptd c. 1930); Westbourne Woods. VIC: Colac (Bot. Gds); Castlemaine ('Buda'); Dandenongs ('Pirianda'); Essendon (Queens Park); Kyneton (Bot. Gds); Malmsbury (Bot. Gds); Maroondah Dam (high slopes); Selby (Bus Stop); Springmount (a remarkable old avenue 200-300 m long on the old Daylesford road near Creswick that shows the confusing variation in habit of this species); Wallaby Ck (near Kinglake West, above Parrot Creek). TAS: Hobart (Tasmanian Royal Bot. Gds); Westbury (Common).
var. benthamii (Endl.) Carrière has fern-like flattened sprays of foliage (cf. Chamaecyparis funebris).
NSW: Berrima (Berrima Park, large tree 100 years old in 1993); Kempsey (Armidale Road). ACT: Yarralumla (Lodge). VIC: Beechworth (Queen Victoria Park); Walhalla (cemetery, 2 trees at entrance); Narbethong ('St Fillans', 28.5 m tall in 1994). TAS: Hobart (Royal Tasmanian Bot. Gds).
Source: (1995). Cupressaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 1, Ferns, conifers & their allies. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.
Habit similar to c. lusitanica but foliage and branchlets golden at the tips; cones not produced. Material in the nursery trade appears more similar to c. macrocarpa. Grown in 1960 by Mr Colin Small, Superintendent of Parks to the City of Enfield, Adelaide, from seed obtained from the Waite Institute in South Australia. Literature: Lothian (1978). Sa: Adelaide (Angas Gardens n of River Torrens; Womens' Memorial Gardens s of River Torrens; w of Port Road bridge; Bonython Park, north of boat pool, original tree 6.5 m tall in 1977).
Upright with compact, ferny blue-green foliage. Grows to c. 3 m in 10 years. Seedling from 'Moss Vale' selected by Peter Nitschke, Hahndorf, South Australia and introduced c. 1986.
Branches spreading with long, drooping, cord-like branchlets. Possibly better placed in 'Chamaecyparissoides'. Origin UK.
Branches and branchlets conspicuously pendulous and blue. Hillier & Sons, Winchester, UK, 1925.
SA: Mt Gambier (Hospital). Vic: Ballarat (Bot. Gds); Camperdown (Bot. Gds); Sunbury ('Caloola').
('Gracilis') Forms a small, conical or spreading shrub with dense foliage and coning very early. Grows to c. 2 m tall and wide in 10 years. Originated as a witch's broom found in Moss Vale, New South Wales by P. Nitschke in 1982.