The Gymnosperm Database


Distribution of Cupressus goveniana var. pigmaea (Griffin and Critchfield 1972).


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Conservation status

Cupressus goveniana var. pigmaea

Lemmon 1895

Common names

Mendocino or pigmy cypress (Peattie 1950).

Taxonomic notes


The spelling variants "pigmaea" and "pygmaea" appear in all names.

One molecular analysis has indicated that this taxon may be more closely related to Cupressus macrocarpa than to C. goveniana (Terry et al. 2012), but the results thus far are inconclusive.


Distinguished from the type variety only by its large size and slender, whip-like leader (Wolf 1948), and by its unique growth form on the White Plains, described below.

Distribution and Ecology

USA: California: Mendocino County: two coastal area near Fort Bragg and Mendocino City. Habitat is the Mendocino White Plains, a highly acidic, nutrient-deprived white sandy soil over a hard clay. Some plants are dwarf, flowering when less than 1 m tall, and they occur with two pines (P. contorta and P. muricata) that flower at similarly diminutive sizes (Lanner 1999).

Big tree

Height 43 m, dbh 213 cm, crown spread 12 m, in Mendocino County, CA (American Forests 2000). A specimen 48 meters (157 feet) tall was reported in 1929 (Lanner 1999).





Based on historical collections and land preservation patterns, a good place to see the small trees would appear to be the Jackson State Forest, about two miles east of the city of Mendocino. HERE is a Google Maps image of a likely area.


"The pygmy forests of this species and Pinus contorta on the shallow hardpan soils of coastal terraces of the Mendocino white plains are a remarkable example of phenotypic plasticity" (Eckenwalder 1993).


American Forests 2000. The National Register of Big Trees 2000. Washington, DC: American Forests. The big tree register is now available online.

Bartel 2009: described in Adams, R. P., J. A. Bartel and R. A. Price. 2009. A new genus, Hesperocyparis, for the cypresses of the western hemisphere. Phytologia 91(1):160-185.

Lemmon, J. G. 1895. West-American Cone-Bearers, 3rd ed. Pp. 76-77., courtesy of the Cupressus Conservation Project website.

Terry, R. G., J. A. Bartel, and R. P. Adams. 2012. Phylogenetic relationships among the New World cypresses (Hesperocyparis; Cupressaceae): evidence from noncoding chloroplast DNA sequences. Plant Systematics and Evolution DOI: 10.1007/s00606-012-0696-3.

See also

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World.

Adams, R. P. and J. A. Bartel. Infraspecific variation in Hesperocyparis goveniana and H. pygmaea: ISSRs and terpenoid data. Phytologia 91(2):277-286.

Bisbee, Jeff. 2006. Photos at the Cupressus Conservation Project website.

Little (1970).

Sargent. 1901. North American trees. Botanical Gazette 31: 239-240., courtesy of the Cupressus Conservation Project website.

Last Modified 2017-12-29