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Cupressus bakeri

Cupressus bakeri
Cupressus bakeri

Baker cypress (or Modoc cypress or Siskiyou cypress) is one of the rarest conifer species in North America, limited to more or less nine localities in southwest Oregon and northern California. Today's photographs were taken last week at the northernmost site for the species, Oregon's Flounce Rock (actually, the northernmost site for naturally-occurring Cupressus in North America). A photographer colleague and I were accompanied to the site by local botanist and plant-hunter extraordinaire, Frank Callahan.

This "Flounce Rock Grove" has been known since at least 1926, but it took another 27 years before the trees were identified as cypresses in 1953. Originally, they were thought to be junipers. The population at this grove is ca. 1000 individuals, give or take a few hundred, in a space of 0.8ha (2 acres). Some of the largest trees were felled by high winds, likely related to an adjacent clearcut and consequent loss of buffering capacity.

I should note that I'm not entirely certain whether Cupressus bakeri is the currently-accepted name; it is by some, whereas others (like the new Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California) use Hesperocyparis bakeri. The Gymnosperm Database summarizes the 21st-century papers on the subject of whether (most) North American Cupressus species should be separated out into Hesperocyparis. I decided to use Cupressus bakeri until the dust settles on the debate.

Additional photographs of Cupressus bakeri are available via Calphotos: Cupressus bakeri, including this 2009 photograph of the same group of trees as today's first photograph.

12 Comments

I think C. nootkatensis has a more northerly distribution. Or are you regarding that as being in the genus Chamaecyparis?

Agree with Scott, Nootka Cypress, now treated as Cupressus nootkatensis, occurs much further north, into Alaska.

According to the latest phylogenetic studies and classification of gymnosperms (Christenhusz et al. 2012)Cupressus includes the species from North America as well as Eurasia and a split (Hesperocyparis) is not required even under cladistic principles. The treatment in the latest edition of Jepson Manual was thus premature but one of the authors was also an author of the paper that proposed the split based on earlier, less inclusive phylogenetic analyses. Whether you classify the Nootka Cypress as Cupressus or as Xanthocyparis (as I do) is dependent on whether you accept paraphyletic taxa (cladists do not, evolutionary taxonomists do where other data than genealogy indicate this). One genus it does not belong to under any scientific classification is Chamaecyparis, it is too far removed from that genus in the overall phylogeny of the family Cupressaceae (see e.g. my monograph of the Cupressaceae Farjon 2005).

Your first photo looks just like a bonsai raft. It is the most beautiful image of this tree that I have ever seen. You are not only a scholar, but a true artist. Thank you for this blog. I enjoy it every time.

Thank you, Connie. Those are very kind words.

I'll need to dig into the scientific literature, including Aljos' monograph, before I make any correction regarding the northernmost cypress. That said, I appreciate the comments asserting that the Nootka cypress is the northernmost -- that there still remains uncertainty provokes a different kind of interest. Personally, I'm comfortable with the uncertainty that that species may or may not be included in Cupressus depending on what approach you take.

UBC botany photo of the day is one of my favorite lists. I have a general question, something that's been bugging me, so here goes: Is there a reason the Botany Photo of the Day opens sooooooo far down the screen with lots of white space above it? Or is this a problem specific to me and my settings?
Any light anyone can shed would be much appreciated!

Karen, that problem has been reported to the design and marketing folks in the past. Did the temporary change I just made fix it for you?

Daniel: Thanks so much for the photo and info. Way back in the 1980's, I purchased a Cupressus bakeri seedling from Forest Farm nursery in southern Oregon. It was planted out dryland on the leeward, downslope edge of a black locust/Austrian pine shelterbelt on a farm north of Pendleton, OR (12" annual rainfall). After watering the first few years, it has THRIVED on it's own. I last saw it as a dense, dark conical pillar aout 20 ft high, back in 2008. Tough trees.

Have Cupressus glabra 'Blue Ice' and 'Golden Pillar" in our garden on a well-drained glacial till hillside in NE metro area of Seattle (Bothell). Planted in 2007/8 and very happy here.

It's good to read that native Cupressus and the Italian Cupressus sempervirens are still considered to be in the same genus. (BTW- C. sempervirens 'Swane's Golden' seems to be best adapted to Seattle climate - several are thriving in parking strip at Molbak's Nursery in Woodinville, WA). They certainly have similar preferences for growing conditions - dryish, well-drained. What has been known as Chamaecyparis nootkatensis is VERY different from a "gardener's persepective" both in growing preferences and foliage/cone characteristics. Both the species and the intergeneric hybrid xCupresso-cyparis 'Leylandii' are also growing fine in our neighborhood without supplemental water; however, they are planted in large, deep pockets of better soil, with glacial till subsoil. I'm also trying to grow Chamaecyparis lawsoniana dryland on the scraped-bare glacial till slope above our homes. The seedlings are alive after 5 years, but very little growth. With some supplemental watering, and deeper "good soil" planting pocket, they are doing fine. And, it's good to hear that Port Orford cedar and Nootka cedar/cypress are now considered to be in separate families, since again, from a gardening perspective they both appear and perform very differently.

I, too, have Modoc cypress under cultivation in the Sierra Nevada foothills (~14 inches of rain/year - all falling between October and May - in shallow decomposed granite soil). I watered it a few time the first summer and mulched it heavily. Since then it has thrived on my neglect. After fifteen years the seedling in a 4 inch pot has grown to about 25 feet tall, spreading nearly as wide. The plant first flowered at about 10 years, and has been accumulating cones ever since. Like all cypresses, the serotinous cones will not open to release their seeds until they are burned (Even if you saw open an unburned cone and dissect out the seeds, they will not germinate unless charred). Makes for pyrotechnic horticulture.

'Golden Pillar' belongs to C. macrocarpa. It was raised in Holland in the 1940s.

Steven: just to clarify, cedars (Cedrus) are in a different family (Pinaceae), but cypresses, both Chamaecyparis and Cupressus, are together in the family Cupressaceae.

Aljos Farjon commented:
According to the latest phylogenetic studies and classification of gymnosperms (Christenhusz et al. 2012)Cupressus includes the species from North America as well as Eurasia and a split (Hesperocyparis) is not required even under cladistic principles.

That is true. And it must be said that Farjon is among the people who signed that article which can be found online : A new classification and linear sequence of extant gymnosperms, M.J.M. Christenhusz, J.L. Reveal, Aljos Farjon, Martin F. Garddner, R.R. Mill & M.W. Chase, Phytotaxa 19: 55–70 (2011). But...


Whether you classify the Nootka Cypress as Cupressus or as Xanthocyparis (as I do)

If so, what is worth Farjon's signature on the above paper, which is listing Xanthocyparis as a synonym of Cupressus? Is Farjon merely accepting to add his name to an article he did not write, even when he does not agree to treat Xanthocyparis as a synonym of Cupressus? Is it standard practice? When one is signing an article is he not accepting the content of that article?

Is that a scientific way to care about taxonomy? Moreover accepting Xanthocyparis is making Cupressus paraphyletic. And there is no "evolutionary" data supporting a split inside Cupressus, be it with Hesperocyparis, Callitropsis*, Xanthocyparis or what else. All this "naming" game started after Farjon's useless taxonomy of Nootka Cypress by transfer from Chamaecyparis to Xanthocyparis.


One genus it does not belong to under any scientific classification is Chamaecyparis, it is too far removed from that genus in the overall phylogeny of the family Cupressaceae (see e.g. my monograph of the Cupressaceae Farjon 2005).

It is necessary to note that Farjon treated nootkatensis inside Chamaecyparis until 2002, that is 3 years after Cupressus vietnamensis was discovered and described by Vietnamese botanists. And nine years after Frankis had reviewed the case and concluded that nootkatensis belonged to Cupressus. Farjon's taxonomy on Cupressus is bad : he is putting in two different genera species which hybridise, and in the same species, two species which cannot hybridise. Until taxonomy will be a matter of opinion, it will not be a science, but an art. Is it the way to go?

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