Cupressus lusitanica

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100 of the World's worst Invasive and Alien Species.




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Related Links
C. lusitanica windbreaks in dairy pasture, Volcan Barba, Costa Rica.
© David Boshier
C. lusitanica unthinned plantation, Cartago, Costa Rica.
© David Boshier
C. lusitanica young seedlings in nursery.
© David Boshier
Healthy 28 year old plantation in Kenya, Africa
© James Denny Ward, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org

Cupressus lusitanica is an evergreen tree, 35 m high, with a dense, conical crown. Branches spread out widely but terminate in pendulous branchlets. Trunk short, 70 cm in diameter. Bark on trunk is reddish-brown, exfoliating in long, narrow strips, eventually becoming roughened by the development of many short cracks. Branchlets covered with small, decussate, adpressed, acute, sessile, scale leaves with flexed tips.

The distinctly bluish-green foliage is ovate, closely pressed, usually with long, pointed apex.

Male flowers small, oblong or cylindrical; female subglobose, very small, composed of 6-14 fertile decussate scales with several ovules each.

Cones ellipsoid; bluish-green when young turning reddish-brown when mature; 13-25 mm in diameter; composed of 6-12 woody, shieldlike scales, each bearing 8-10 seeds; male cones appear to be fat tips to branchlets and produce clouds of yellow pollen; female cones rounded, scales with central pointed projections. Seeds brown, with resin glands, up to 4 mm long, with a narrow wing.

The Latin name ‘Cupresssus’ comes from the Greek ‘kuparissos’, which commemorates a youth of that name who was turned into a cypress tree by Apollo. The specific name is derived from Lusitania, Portugal, where the tree was introduced in the 17th century.

Ecology

C. lusitanica is found in seasonally moist to permanently moist climates, with annual precipitation typically between 1000 and 1500 mm and a dry season lasting not more than 2-3 months. It also occurs in very moist climates with annual precipitation up to 4000 mm. It is not generally damaged by occasional snow or brief periods of frost, but there are significant differences in this among provenances. It cannot withstand waterlogging. Associated species in its natural habitat include Abies guatemalensis, Litsea glaucescens, Pinus montezumae and Prunus brachybotrya.

Native range
Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, United States of America

Tree management

The fast-growing conifers are planted on land that has been cleared by burning, to improve rooting conditions and eliminate potential competitors. In general, the seedlings should be planted at 2 x 2 or 3 x 3 m; close spacing is preferable to prevent strong branches from developing. As C. lusitanica gives only limited protection against soil erosion, pure stands on slopes or erosion-prone sites should be underplanted with other suitable species. Weeding is an absolute must during the 1st years.

Pruning is practised so that trees yield high-quality, knot-free sawlogs. Pruning should be done when trees are 3 years old, with 3 further prunings at 6, 9 and 13 years of age in a 25-30 year rotation. Trees grown for high-quality timber should be pruned to 30% of their stem height every 3 years without diminishing volume growth. Thinning is prescribed before each pruning.

In early years, individual trees should show an annual height increment of 1.2-1.5 m (2 m in exceptional cases). Trees produce poles after 10 years and general-purpose timber after 20 years. They need to be protected from fire and rodent attack.

After extraction, the seeds are dried in the sun to 6-10% mc before they are stored. Long-term seed storage behaviour is orthodox. Germination rate for seeds in hermitic storage for 21 years at 5 deg. C with less than 10% mc is 10%; viability can be maintained in hermitic storage at 3 deg. C with 6-10% mc. With normal dry storage, 75% germination can be maintained for 1 year and for several years if seeds are refrigerated at 4 deg. C. Seed weight varies with provenance, ranging from 170 000 to 320 000 seeds/kg.

C. lusitanica is found in seasonally moist to permanently moist climates, with annual precipitation typically between 1000 and 1500 mm and a dry season lasting not more than 2-3 months. It also occurs in very moist climates with annual precipitation up to 4000 mm. It is not generally damaged by occasional snow or brief periods of frost, but there are significant differences in this among provenances. It cannot withstand waterlogging. Associated species in its natural habitat include Abies guatemalensis, Litsea glaucescens, Pinus montezumae and Prunus brachybotrya.

Conventionally, C. lusitanica is raised from seed, although it is possible to induce root cuttings. Presowing treatment is not necessary. Direct sowing by placing seeds in bamboo sleeves has been used with some success, but use of stock that is bare rooted or in containers is more common. For rapid and uniform epigeal germination, stratification in damp sand for 30 days is recommended; germination takes place in 20-30 days; expected germination rate is 30-45% from mature, healthy seed lots. Seedlings grown in raised beds are 5-7 cm tall in about a week, when they should be transferred into containers that have been prepared 3-4 weeks beforehand by sieving the soil to remove large particles and then allowing the soil to form a crumb structure, which promotes good drainage. Plants 20-30 cm tall are transferred to a nursery before being planted out. Natural regeneration is good on burnt areas and natural clearings, if competition from ground flora does not become intensive.

C. lusitanica is a good source of firewood.

Timber:  The white wood saws cleanly and has straight fine grain; it is a source of construction wood and pulp wood and is used for furniture, poles and posts.

Shade or shelter:  Trees are suitable as windbreaks.

Ornamental:  The beautiful tree can be planted in amenity areas.

It is grown as a live fence.