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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 tortulosa

Griffith 1854

Common names

Kashmir Cypress (Dallimore et al. 1967).

Taxonomic notes

An Old World cypress, subgenus Cupressus. Synonymy:

There has recently (2010-2011) been some controversy about this species because it has long been called Cupressus cashmeriana by virtually everyone. Silba (2009) reveals how this misunderstanding arose. The species was first collected in Bhutan in 1838. The collection and later description were the work of William Griffith (1810-1845), who first assigned the name C. pendula, which was invalid, the name having previously been used by Thunberg to describe a species that has since been synonymized with Platycladus orientalis. Griffith realized his error and described the species again as C. tortulosus (making the common error of presuming Cupressus to be a masculine noun). He then died, but a John M'Clelland undertook to organize his papers and publish the botanical work that he left behind, publishing C. pendula in 1848 and C. tortulosus in 1854. These publications were not particularly obscure; Griffith was well known and respected by some of the foremost botanists of his day, and the posthumous publication of his work was welcomed (Lang 1913). Nonetheless, this work, or at least the type specimens that he collected, may have been unknown to Royle or Carrière when the species was described as C. cashmeriana in 1867, in the popular book Traité Général des Conifères.

Note that this is NOT the same species as Cupressus torulosa; the two species unfortunately resemble each other not only in name but also in appearance and distribution, and confusion is inevitable.


Small trees, crown conical or narrowly pyramidal habit with ascending branches and pendulous branchlets that are often several feet long, the older ones reddish-brown and bare of leaves in the third or fourth year. Branchlets long and pendulous, conspicuously flattened, 2- or 3-pinnate, the ultimate divisions compressed. Leaves blue-green, glaucous or of an iridescent tinge, with attenuate, spreading tips. Seed cones globose, 12 mm across, initially pale green and bluish pruinose, later dark brown, composed of 10 scales depressed at the centre, with a pointed, triangular and reflexed process, about 10 seeds to each scale. Seeds numerous, about 10 to each scale, winged (Dallimore et al. 1967, Vidakovic 1991).

"This, the most beautiful and elegant of all the cypresses, appears to be a juvenile form of C. torulosa which it closely resembles in its cones. It was formerly considered to be a well-marked variety of C. funebris, but differs from that species in the larger number of cone scales and in having about 10 seeds on each scale" (Dallimore et al. 1967).

Distribution and Ecology

Bhutan, India: ?Arunachal Pradesh (Farjon 1998).

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).





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."



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.

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 2013-03-19