Cypress, a cone-bearing tree valued for its resinous, water-resistant wood. There are three groups of cypresses—the true cypresses, the false cypresses, and the swamp cypresses.
Among the true cypresses is the Italian cypress, a tree found throughout southern Europe and southwestern Asia. Its wood is heavy, firm, and resinous. It resists insects and decay and is noted for its durability. The ancient Egyptians used the wood to make mummy cases, chests, doors, statues, and wine presses. Other true cypresses include the Arizona, Macnab, and Monterey cypresses, native to the western United States, and the Portuguese, or Mexican, cypress, native to Mexico.
The false cypresses are larger than the true cypresses. They are grown for their timber or are planted as ornamentals. The mourning cypress, a tree native to China, is planted in cemeteries in Europe and Asia. It has long, drooping branches. False cypresses grown as ornamentals in the United States include the hinoki cypress, the sawara cypress, and the Port Orford cedar, or Lawson cypress.
The bald cypress is a swamp cypress found in wetlands across the southern United States and north into Illinois, Indiana, and Delaware. It and the larch are the only cone-bearing trees that shed their leaves in winter. The bald cypress grows to a height of 150 feet (45 m). Its soft, durable wood is used for construction and in making packaging material and furniture. The roots of the bald cypress produce conical-shaped projections known as knees, which protrude up to six feet (1.8 m) above the water surface. The knees enable the roots to obtain oxygen (for respiration) from the air. The Montezuma cypress is a swamp cypress native to southern Texas and Mexico. It is long-lived, and some specimens may be older than the ancient giant sequoias of California. One specimen, the Big Tree of Tule at El Tule, Mexico, is about 140 feet (43 m) high and 50 feet (15 m) in diameter.
True and false cypresses belong to the cypress family, Cupressaceae. The Italian cypress is Cupressus sempervirens; Arizona, C. arizonica; Macnab, C. macnabiana; Monterey, C. macrocarpa; Portuguese, C. lusitanica. The mourning cypress is Chamaecy-paris funebris; hinoki, Ch. obtusa; sawara, Ch. pisifera; Port Orford cedar, Ch. lawsoniana. Swamp cypresses belong to the redwood family, Taxodiaceae. The bald cypress is Taxodium distichum; Montezuma, T. mucronatum.