The Gymnosperm Database


A large tree growing at a temple in Bhutan [Daniel Winkler, 2010.02].


Foliage on a tree at the Los Angeles Arboretum [C.J. Earle, 2009.12.06].


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Conservation status
(as C. cashmeriana)

Cupressus cashmeriana

Royle ex Carrière 1867

Common names

Kashmir Cypress (Dallimore et al. 1967).

Taxonomic notes

An Old World cypress, subgenus Cupressus. Synonymy:

There has recently (2010-2017) been some controversy about this species. A lot of it has concerned nomenclature, more than taxonomy, and the central disagreement is whether there is one species native to Arunachal Pradesh (India) and Bhutan, or two. One species, C. cashmeriana, is found by Farjon (2005, 2010), who declines to designate any infraspecific taxa and decries the proliferation of names assigned to plants from the region, many with uncertain provenance, and many of which seem to differ only on minor points of interest more to horticulture than to taxonomy. Two species are found by Maerki (2017 and many other works cited therein), who assigns C. cashmeriana to Arunachal Pradesh and C. tortulosa to Bhutan. No one seems to have resolved all the competing minor names (again, see Maerki [2017] and works cited therein), and the situation is reminiscent of the confusion that characterized the systematics of Mexican pines up until the late 20th Century, when rigorous cladistic taxonomy and the introduction of molecular methods finally started to elucidate some consistent patterns.

At this point I retain Farjon's taxonomy, primarily because although I believe there are sound ecological and evolutionary reasons to expect the existence of multiple lineages of south Himalayan cypresses, I haven't yet found a persuasive argument about how or why they are distinguishable. I will note in passing, though, that the Nomenclature Committee for Vascular Plants (Applequist 2016) determined that the name Cupressus tortulosa is an orthographic variant of C. torulosa and so the Bhutan cypress distinguished by Maerki, if recognized as a distinct species, needs a different name: it is Cupressus corneyana Carrière 1855, as neotypified by Maerki (2017).


Evergreen, monoecious trees to 95m tall and 350cm dbh, usually with a single straight trunk and a conical (young trees) to broad and irregular (old trees) crown of sinusoidal (proximally ascending, distally drooping) branches. Bark first smooth, exfoliating in thin strips, later fibrous, red-brown with a purple-brown inner bark. Twigs slightly flattened, slender, drooping, alternating, forming planar frondose sprays. Leaves scale-like, decussate, imbricate, appressed, dimorphic with facials slightly smaller than laterals, on the smallest branches 1.4-3×0.5-1mm, except up to 12×2mm on whip shoots; margins entire; glands conspicuous on facial leaves; stomata mostly on margins near leaf bases; green, but varying from not glaucous to highly glaucous. Pollen and seed cones borne on different branches. Pollen cones solitary, terminal, 4-6×2-2.5mm, yellow-green turning light brown, with 10-16 microsporophylls. Seed cones solitary or in small groups near branch ends, taking two seasons to mature, subglobose, 12-21×10-19mm, green maturing dark brown; bracts 4-5 angular, centrally depressed with a ca. 1 mm long protruding bract tip; about 10 seeds on each scale. Cotyledons 2; juvenile leaves only seen on seedlings, in whorls of 4, acicular, 7-10mm long (Farjon 2005).

Distribution and Ecology

Bhutan, India: Arunachal Pradesh; also, widely planted near temples in E Nepal, Sikkim, and Tibet. Climate is monsoonal with 800-2000mm annual precipitation. Grows at elevations of 1250-2670m, mainly as an emergent in evergreen hardwood forests dominated by Quercus spp. but it can also form pure stands on limestone cliffs, and near its upper elevation limits, it occurs with Tsuga dumosa. (Farjon 2005).

Big tree

A tree in Trongsa, Bhutan was approximately 60 m tall and greater than 6 m in girth (191 cm dbh) in March, 2011. A description and several good photos are at the Monumental Trees site (accessed 2013.03.18). There have been unspecified reports of trees up to 95 m tall and 350 cm diameter "in some secluded deep mountain valleys" (Farjon 2008), but no firm documentation of such individuals has yet been put forward.






Dallimore et al. (1967) report that "[a]lthough not well known in Britain, it is represented in the Temperate House at Kew. The most famous tree in Europe was that on the Isola Madre at Lake Maggiore. It was a specimen over 60 ft. high, of remarkable beauty. C. tortulosa can only be grown out of doors in the mildest parts of England and Ireland."


Applequist, W.L. 2016. Report of the Nomenclature Committee for Vascular Plants: 68. Taxon 65(5):1153-1165.

Griffith, W. 1854. Icones Plantarum Asiaticarum. Part 4. Posthumous papers arranged by John M'Clelland. Calcutta.

Lang, W.H. 1913. William Griffith. Pp. 170-188 in F.W. Oliver (ed.), Makers of British Botany. Cambridge: The University Press. Pp. 178-191. Available at Google Books.

Maerki, D. 2017. Comments on the decision of the Nomenclature Committee. Bulletin of the Cupressus Conservation Project 6(2):43-48.

Royle ex Carrière. 1867. Traité Général des Conifères, ed. 2, 1: 161.

Silba, J. 2009. The taxonomy of the Griffith cypress (Cupressus tortulosa Griffith). J. Int. Conif. Pres. Soc. 16(1):45-50., accessed 2011.01.07.

See also

Farjon (2005) provides a detailed account (of C. cashmeriana), with illustrations.

Anonymous. 2005. Photos at the Cupressus Conservation Project website.

Last Modified 2017-12-29