Cypress (Cupressus x leylandii)

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Leyland cypress is a sterile cross between the Monterey cypress and the Nootka cypress (both North American species).

Common name: cypress

Scientific name: Cupressus x leylandii
Family: Cupressaceae

UK provenance: non-native

Interesting fact: it is unlikely that the Monterey cypress and the Nootka cypress would ever have cross-bred in the wild, as their natural ranges are some 400 miles apart.

What does Leyland cypress look like?

Overview: mature Leyland cypress trees can grow to 40m. The foliage is dense and hides much of the trunk. The bark is red-grey with ridges, and twigs are slender, brown and flexible. It is thought that it was created by accident in a Welsh garden nursery in the 19th century, when the two species cross-bred.

Leaves: scale-like, soft and overlapping, leaves form in flat sprays on long stalks.

Flowers: ball-shaped cones are small and brown, and each scale has a central spine.

Look out for: when crushed the foliage smells of resin.

Could be confused with: many cultivated varieties exist.

Identified in winter by: male cones are yellow at tips of twigs. Female cones are rounded.

Where to find Leyland cypress

Usually grown as a hedging tree in gardens, fast-growing Leyland cypress is commonly found in residential areas, it is often the cause of disputes between neighbours. The Leyland cypress grows well in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well-drained and clay soils and prefers full sun. 

Value to wildlife

Being a non-native hybrid, Leyland cypress has very little value to wildlife. However, when grown as a hedge, its dense foliage provides shelter for garden birds.

Mythology and symbolism

As a hybrid of two non-native trees, there is no mythology and symbolism associated with Leyland cypress.

How we use cypress

Leyland cypress is most commonly used as a garden hedging plant, as it grows very quickly and has dense foliage. However, its rate of growth often exceeds expectations and trees can quickly grow to 40m, becoming difficult to control and blocking light from neighbouring gardens.

Threats

Brown patches can develop in summer when the trees are in active growth. They may be  caused by cypress aphid, scale insects, dieback, canker, or even over-enthusiastic hedge trimming.

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