Cupressus  montana

Ira Wiggins, Contributions from Dudley Herbarium, (1933) p.161-164.


Cupressus montana, sp. nov. PLATE 11, FIGURE 1

     Arbor 5-20 m. alta; ramis numerosis, horizontalibus vel paulo ascendentibus; cortice anguste rimoso, purpureo-brunneo; foliis viridibus, hornotinis circa 1.5-1.75 mm. longis, annotinis 3-3.5 mm. longis, acutis vel acuminatis, glandulis resiniferis dorso uno; strobilis masculis oblongis, circa 3 mm. longis; strobilis feminis solitariis, globosis, 15-20 mm. latis, junioribus glauceis, adultis rubro-brunneis, nitidis; squamis 8-12; umbonibus prominentibus, saepe adpressis; seminibus castaneo-brunneis, 3-4 mm. longis, lenticularibus.
     Tree 5-20 m. high with a trunk 2-5 dm. or infrequently up to 1 m. in diameter, clothed from the ground with numerous spreading branches, the tips slightly ascending, forming an open to rather compact pyramidal crown; bark of the trunk narrowly ridged and shreddy, persistent, deep red- to chocolate-brown, that of the younger branches and twigs gray-brown, exfoliating in irregular scales to expose small patches of smooth light gray-red bark which soon become the color of the surrounding surface, not polished; leaves on short, stout, 4-sided branchlets, dark green, about 1.5-1.75 mm. long on seasonal twigs, becoming 3-3.5 mm. long and persisting from four to five years, acute to short-acuminate, slightly keeled at the apex, furnished with a conspicuous dorsal pit containing a large resin-gland; foliage giving off an odor similar to dill when crushed; staminate cones oblong, about 3 mm. long, with from three to four lateral anthers in each row, anthers mostly bearing four pollen sacs each; cones globose to short-ovoid, 15-20 mm. broad, solitary or sometimes two or three in a loose cluster, on stout peduncles 8-10 mm. long, brown and shining, slightly glaucous when young, becoming gray-brown in age, opening immediately upon maturity; scales 8-12; umbos about the middle of the scale, conical, more or legs upwardly appressed; seeds light chestnut-brown, 3-4 mm. long, slightly angled, lenticular, with a white, broadly lanceolate hilum 0.5-1.25 mm. long, and a marginal wing 0.2-0.5 mm. broad.
     Type in the Dudley Herbarium, no. 194170, collected at the upper end of the meadow at La Encantada, Sierra San Pedro Martir, altitude 2,300 meters, Wiggins & Demaree 4990, 22 September 1930.
     For many years this species has been referred to C. guadalupensis S. Wats., but it differs from the latter in several notable respects. C. guadalupensis has much larger cones that normally remain unopened on the trees for several years after reaching maturity, but the cones of C. montana open the same fall they mature. In an examination of a number of trees in the field no cones were discovered holding over from the previous year. The surface of the cone-scales is rougher in C. montana than in C. guadalupensis and the seeds of the former are smaller, lighter brown, fewer in number under each scale, and legs angled than those of the insular species. Sargent,1 in writing of C. guadalupensis, said : "Seeds about 70 under each scale." There is scarcely that number in the entire cane of C. montana.
     The bark of this tree also distinguishes it from C. guadalupensis and the latter's near relative, C. Forbesii Jepson. Whereas the latter two species have smooth, shining bark that exfoliates in thin sheets to reveal bright cherry-red bark beneath, C. montana has thick, narrowly ridged bark that persists for a number of years. The younger branches and the top of the main trunk have smooth bark, but it is not polished nor the bright red of the bark of the other two species.
     Although habit may be of little taxonomic value, the striking difference between the habit of C. guadalupensis and C. montana seems to be worth noting as supplementary evidence of their distinctness. Three photographs of the former species in Miss Eastwood's paper2 show the tree in its native environment on the fog-drenched plateau of Guadalupe Island. These pictures show trees with broad, rounded crowns, the spread of the branches nearly or quite equaling the height of the tree, and the branches, as shown in Figures 1 and 2, distinctly ascending from the very point of branching. Every tree observed in the Sierra San Pedro Martir region had a narrow pyramidal crown, the spread of which was only a fraction of the height. The branches were less ascending, growing almost horizontally or curving upward very gradually some distance from the trunk of the tree.
     Barring the possibility that there are two species of Cupressus in the Sierra San Pedro Martir, the assignment of this species to C. guadalupensis probably may be attributed to a lack of field notes on the habit of growth and the character of the bark and canes. Sargent apparently recognized some difference between this tree and the Guadalupe Island cypress,3 but, not having the opportunity to study the tree in the field and probably having no information concerning the bark on the mature trunks or on the length of the time elapsing between the time of maturity and the shedding of the seeds, he was unwilling to consider it other than an inland form of the insular species.
     The character of the cones and the bark of the older trunk suggest a relationship with C. nevadensis Abrams. But the staminate canes of C. montana are longer, having from three to four lateral anthers in each row, the seeds are not glaucous, the umbos of the cone-scales are about in the center of the scales instead of toward the upper edge, and the leaves are more acute and noticeably longer than they are in C. nevadensis.
     The bark and general habit suggest C. arizonica Greene, but this species has cones that remain unopened on the trees for several years, and very few pits on the leaves.
     Late in the season some of the trees appear to have very glaucous leaves, while others are clothed with bright green foliage. At first this led me to believe that there were two distinct forms growing in the Sierra San Pedro Martir, but upon closer examination it appeared that the whitish coating was a thin layer of resin from the large gland on each leaf whitened by exposure to air and moisture. It does not cover all of the leaves uniformly, so some trees appear quite glaucous from one point of view and distinctly green from another. This bloom-like coating is particularly heavy on trees growing on the more exposed ridges. Whether or not this glaucous-like appearance had anything to do with assigning this species to C. guadalupensis, a glaucous species, can be a matter of conjecture only.
     From the writings of earlier collectors in Baja California it would seem that this tree is extremely rare in the Sierra San Pedro Martir. Although it is not common over the whole area, yet in certain localities it is by no means rare, some of the small canyons at an altitude of 2,200 to 2,400 meters supporting considerable stands of this cypress. Goldman4 collected it " a notch at about 2,700 meters altitude on the crest of the San Pedro Martir Mountains several miles east of Vallecitos…." Between Vallecitos and La Encantada are several fine graves, in one of which the largest specimen seen was growing. It was nearly 25 meters high and about a meter in diameter a like distance from the ground. On the ridges east of La Encantada this cypress ascends to an altitude of about 2,825 meters.

1Sargent, C. S., Manual of the Trees of North America (ed. 2), p. 73. 1922.
2Eastwood, Alice, Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, IV, 18: pl. 33. 1929.
3Brandegee, T. S., Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, II, 2: 216. 1889.
4Goldman, Edward A., Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 16: 312. 1916.