Cupressus  stephensonii

Carl B. Wolf, The New World Cypresses, Volume I, El Aliso, Anaheim, California, (1948) p.125-128.

6. Cupressus Stephensonii - Cuyamaca Cypress

    Cupressus STEPHENSONII C. B. Wolf species nova. An erect or somewhat spreading tree 10 to 16 m. in height, the broadest nearly 10 m. in spread, generally with a straight central leader and a trunk up to 7 dm. in diam., the bark of which is thin, cherry-red, smooth and exfoliating, not at all fibrous, but sometimes the older surfaces a bit grayish. In aspect, the trees are glaucous blue-gray or gray-green, although on new growth or after rains the foliage is definitely greener. When lightly crushed the foliage has a distinctive, somewhat lemon-like odor. Branchlets rather thick and stiff, the divisions occasionally unbranched for 15 to 20 mm., but usually less than 10 mm. in length, varying from 1.5 to 2 mm. in thickness, generally somewhat 4-sided. Leaves about 1 mm. long and wide, acutely pointed, rounded on the back and early developing an active dorsal pit, or on some branches these not visible until secondary branching has occurred, or, in some instances, the leaves do not have pits; the ciliate or fimbriate margins of the leaves are plainly visible under a low power lens. On less vigorous shoots the leaves are not so acutely pointed and are more closely imbricated. The resin or pitch from the dorsal gland is at first clear, but as it dries turns to gray or nearly white. On older branches, especially those growing vigorously, the leaves become much enlarged and may attain a length of over 10 mm., a width of 3 to 4 mm. and have a free tip 2 to 3 mm. long, the tip much more acute than the normal leaves, and the dorsal pit usually located just at the base of this free portion. On such vigorous branches these enlarged leaves usually turn brown within a few months and are pushed off by the expanding bark of the branch during the second season. Staminate cones 2 to 4 mm. long, about 2 mm. thick, rather cylindrical and only slightly thinner at tip than at base, the surfaces only slightly flattened (that is 4-sided), composed of 8 to 14 scales, but usually 10 or 12, each scale 1.5 to 2 mm. broad, broadly triangular at upper end and rounded at base, the pollen sacs 3 to 5, the basal and terminal scales usually with 3 and the central with 4 or 5. Ovulate cones produced at the tips of short stubby branchlets which are somewhat thicker than the staminate or vegetative branchlets and have their leaves well imbricated. Prior to pollination the cones are about 3 mm. high, equally broad, and the fimbriate margins of the scales are plainly visible. Following pollination the cones soon turn from green to brown and attain a diam. of about 10 mm. the first season. Cone scales 6 or 8, but mostly 6, these with conspicuous umbo 3 to 4 mm. high and conical or on some cones these very low and inconspicuous. At maturity the cones are a dull gray or brown, and the surface is somewhat roughened or warty, the largest cones about 25 mm. in diam. and nearly spherical. Seeds average from 100 to about 125 per cone, not at all glaucous, are very dark brown, very large and are mostly flattened, are over 5 mm. long and broad, but many of the largest are about 8 mm. long and broad, the main body usually only about 3 mm. broad, the remaining portion a very broad and thin wing, on some seeds nearly 3 mm. broad on the sides but narrower at the base and apex; body of seed darker than wings, the hilum very light tan, about 2 to 3 mm. long, conspicuous. In germination the 3 or 4 cotyledons carry the seed coat above ground, then expand and stand at nearly right angles to the main axis. Cotyledons 10 to 13 mm. long, linear and only slightly flattened, the tip blunt. The next leaves are in whorls of 4, are similar to the cotyledons, but are shorter, flatter and have a minute spine at the tip. As the seedling grows the later juvenile leaves are shorter, and gradually by transitional stages the branchlets produce the mature type leaves, but some of the last transitional types have dorsal pits, even though slightly spreading and with spiny tips.

    Arbor 10-16 m. alta erecta vel subpatens. Foliis glauco-caesiis vel glauco-griseis, odore citri lemonis, ca. 1 mm. longis latisque, dorso rotundatis, fovea saepissime ornatis, margine sub lente ciliatis fimbriatisve, in ramulis adultioribus bene evolutis ad 10 mm. longis, 3-4 mm. latis, apice libero ad 2-3 mm. longo. Amentis staminatis 2-4 mm. longis, ca. 2 mm. crassis, subcylindricis, squamis 8-14 (pro more 10-12), thecis in squama quove 3-5. Strobilis ovulatis in anthesi ca. 3 mm. longis latisque, squamis (6-8) margine bene fimbriatis, primo anno ad 10 mm. magnis, maturis ad 25 mm. subsphaericis. Seminibus in strobilo quove 100-125 haud glaucis, atrobrunneis, 5-8 mm. longis. Cotyledonibus 3-4, 10-13 mm. longis.*

* Latin description by Dr. Leon Croizat, Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University.

Type Locality

    The type collection was made on the upper limits of King Creek, a tributary to the South Fork of the San Diego River, Cuyamaca Mountains, San Diego County, California, at about 4000 ft. elevation on a dry ridge near the creek in a mixed stand of Adenostoma fasiculatum obtusifolium and scattered trees of Pinus Coulteri at the upper limits of the Upper Sonoran Life Zone or the lower limits of the Arid Transition Life Zone. The type specimen was collected by Carl B. Wolf, Coll. No. 9467, December 1, 1938, from a tree about 8 m. high, 10 m. in spread and a trunk 8 dm. in diam. at 1 m. above the ground, the cherry bark exfoliating cleanly leaving a smooth trunk, the foliage a glaucous, bluish-gray and the leaves largely with active dorsal pits.
    This species is named in honor of the late Ranger Bert Stephenson, of the United States Forest Service, who for many years was District Ranger at Descanso, San Diego County, and who died in 1944. Several years ago Mr. Stephenson noted the cypress trees on King Creek while fighting a forest fire in the area. It is a pleasure to associate the name of Mr. Stephenson with this rare tree of the Cuyamaca Mountains, who for nearly a half century was in no small way responsible for this and other important portions of the Cleveland National Forest. His brother, Terry E. Stephenson, who died in 1943, was a member of the Garden's Advisory Board.



    When C. Stephensonii was first discovered, it was thought to be just another locality for C. Forbesii, a grove of which is on Guatay Mt., only 7 or 8 miles airline away. However, the harsh foliage and active glands place this species in the group with C. arizonica and C. glabra. In fact, C. Stephensonii is somewhat intermediate in botanical features between those two species. It resembles C. glabra in its smooth, exfoliating bark, but has much less glandular leaves, in which it resembles C. arizonica.