Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Cupressus sempervirens
(Mediterranean cypress)



Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean cypress)


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'Bolgheri' - a patent cypress variety resistant to S. cardinale.
Title'Bolgheri' variety
Caption'Bolgheri' - a patent cypress variety resistant to S. cardinale.
CopyrightPaola Raddi
'Bolgheri' - a patent cypress variety resistant to S. cardinale.
'Bolgheri' variety'Bolgheri' - a patent cypress variety resistant to S. cardinale.Paola Raddi
Samos, Greece.
TitleNatural cypress stand
CaptionSamos, Greece.
CopyrightPaola Raddi
Samos, Greece.
Natural cypress standSamos, Greece.Paola Raddi
A patent cypress variety resistant to S. cardinale.
Title'Agrimed' n.1 variety
CaptionA patent cypress variety resistant to S. cardinale.
CopyrightPaola Raddi
A patent cypress variety resistant to S. cardinale.
'Agrimed' n.1 varietyA patent cypress variety resistant to S. cardinale.Paola Raddi
Villa Torrigiani, Lucca, Italy.
TitleOrnamental cypress avenue
CaptionVilla Torrigiani, Lucca, Italy.
CopyrightPaola Raddi
Villa Torrigiani, Lucca, Italy.
Ornamental cypress avenueVilla Torrigiani, Lucca, Italy.Paola Raddi
var. horizontalis (left) and var. pyramidalis (right).
Captionvar. horizontalis (left) and var. pyramidalis (right).
CopyrightPaola Raddi
var. horizontalis (left) and var. pyramidalis (right).
Habitvar. horizontalis (left) and var. pyramidalis (right).Paola Raddi
CopyrightPaola Raddi
LeavesPaola Raddi
TitleMale flowers (microsporophylls)
CopyrightPaola Raddi
Male flowers (microsporophylls)Paola Raddi
TitleFemale flowers (macrosporophylls)
CopyrightPaola Raddi
Female flowers (macrosporophylls)Paola Raddi
TitleCones before opening
CopyrightPaola Raddi
Cones before openingPaola Raddi
CopyrightPaola Raddi
SeedsPaola Raddi
TitleCanker dieback on adult cypresses
CopyrightPaola Raddi
Canker dieback on adult cypressesPaola Raddi
TitleFinal stage of S. cardinale canker
CopyrightPaola Raddi
Final stage of S. cardinale cankerPaola Raddi
O. maculatus on cypress cone affected by S. cardinale.
TitleOrsillus maculatus
CaptionO. maculatus on cypress cone affected by S. cardinale.
CopyrightPaola Raddi
O. maculatus on cypress cone affected by S. cardinale.
Orsillus maculatusO. maculatus on cypress cone affected by S. cardinale.Paola Raddi


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cupressus sempervirens L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Mediterranean cypress


  • Cupressus sempervirens var. atlantica (Gaussen) Silba
  • Cupressus sempervirens var. dupreziana (A. Camus) Silba
  • Cupressus sempervirens var. horizontalis (Mill.) Gordon

Other Scientific Names

  • Chamaecyparis thujiformis R.Sm. ex Gordon
  • Cupressus atlantica Gaussen
  • Cupressus conoidea Spadoni
  • Cupressus dupreziana A. Camus
  • Cupressus expansa Targ.Tozz. ex Steud.
  • Cupressus fastigiata DC.
  • Cupressus foemina Garsault
  • Cupressus globulifera Parl.
  • Cupressus horizontalis Mill.
  • Cupressus lugubris Salisb.
  • Cupressus mariae Sennen
  • Cupressus mas Garsault
  • Cupressus orientalis Beissn.
  • Cupressus patula Pers.
  • Cupressus pyramidalis O.Targ.Tozz.
  • Cupressus roylei Carrière
  • Cupressus sempervirens var. fastigiata
  • Cupressus sempervirens var. pyramidalis
  • Cupressus sempervirens var. stricta Aiton
  • Cupressus sphaerocarpa Parl.
  • Cupressus stricta Mill. ex Gordon
  • Cupressus thujifolia Knight ex Gordon
  • Cupressus thujioides H.Low ex Gordon
  • Cupressus tournefortii Audib. ex Carrière
  • Cupressus umbilicata Parl.
  • Juniperus whitleyana Miq.

International Common Names

  • English: common cypress; evergreen cypress; graveyard cypress; Italian cypress; Tuscan cypress
  • Spanish: ciprés; ciprés italiano; ciprés mediterráneo
  • French: ciprés común; cyprés vert
  • Chinese: di zhong hai bai mu
  • Portuguese: cedro-bastardo; cipreste; cipreste-comum; cipreste-de-itália; cipreste-dos-cemitérios

Local Common Names

  • Cuba: ciprés; ciprés fúnebre; ciprés piramidal
  • Dominican Republic: cinta
  • Germany: Zypresse, Atlas-; Zypresse, Echte; Zypresse, Immergrüne; Zypresse, Italienische; Zypresse, Mittelmeer-; Zypresse, Säulen-
  • Italy: cipresso comune
  • Netherlands: italiaanse cypres
  • Sweden: cypress
  • Turkey: kara selvi

EPPO code

  • CVBAT (Cupressus atlantica)
  • CVBSE (Cupressus sempervirens)

Trade name

  • cypress wood

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Gymnospermae
  •                 Class: Pinopsida
  •                     Family: Cupressaceae
  •                         Genus: Cupressus
  •                             Species: Cupressus sempervirens

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The family Cupressaceae includes 30 genera and 133 species of conifers distributed especially in the Northern Hemisphere, more scattered in south temperate regions (Stevens, 2012). Species within the genus Cupressus are trees (rarely shrubs) evergreen, and monoecious. At least 25 taxa have been identified and described, which are considered to be either full species, subspecies or varieties (Gellini and Grossoni, 1979; Allemand 1979).

Many authors have recognized the occurrence of two growth habits for C. sempervirens: fastigiate or horizontal, and have assigned subspecific taxonomic ranks on that basis. It is widely thought that only the horizontal form predates human activity, with the fastigiate form having a horticultural origin dating to early historic or prehistoric times. There is also some question as to whether the fastigiate form is strictly heritable; it appears that "horizontal" specimens may arise from "fastigiate" stock (Farjon 2005). The species name sempervirens comes from the Latin for 'evergreen'.

There are many cultivars for this species: the cultivar “glauca” has blue-green foliage and tight columnar form; “stricta” is one of the most popular; and “horizontalis” has horizontally-spreading branches (Gilman and Watson, 1993). 


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The following description is taken from Flora of China Editorial Committee (2015):

C. sempervirens is a tree growing up to 30 m tall; bark grayish brown, shallowly fissured; branches ascending or horizontally spreading; branchlets not arranged in a plane, ultimate ones 4-angled, approximately 1 mm in diameter. Leaves in 4 ranks, densely appressed, dark green, not glaucous, 0.5-1 mm, ridged abaxially, without a conspicuous abaxial gland, apex obtuse or subacute. Pollen cones 4-8 mm. Seed cones yellowish gray when ripe, subglobose or ellipsoid, 2.5-4 × 2-3 cm; cone scales 8-14, each fertile scale with 8-20 seeds. 

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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Due to the long horticultural history of C. sempervirens in the Mediterranean region, its original native distribution is unclear. C. sempervirens is considered native to the Eastern Mediterranean region, including Libya, southern Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran (Govaerts, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015). It is now widely found in the whole Mediterranean region, and in other areas with similar climate including California, South Africa and southern Australia. It also grows in areas with cooler, moister summers.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-JiangsuPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015Cultivated
-JiangxiPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015Cultivated
IranPresentNativeGovaerts, 2015
IsraelPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2015Cultivated
JordanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
LebanonPresentNativeGovaerts, 2015
PalestinePresentNativeGovaerts, 2015
SyriaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2015
TurkeyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015


AlgeriaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
KenyaPresent Planted
LibyaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2015
MoroccoPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
South AfricaPresent Planted
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
TunisiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedBreedlove, 1986Chiapas
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedGilman and Watson, 1993Cultivated
-FloridaPresentIntroducedGilman and Watson, 1993Cultivated

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Cultivated
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedLinares, 2005Cultivated
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Cultivated
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Cultivated

South America

ArgentinaPresent Planted
BoliviaPresentIntroducedJørgensen et al., 2014
ChilePresentIntroduced Invasive Belov, 2009Invasive on Juan Fernandez Island
ColombiaPresentIntroducedIdárraga-Piedrahita et al., 2011
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedHokche et al., 2008


AlbaniaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
BulgariaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
CroatiaPresent Planted
CyprusPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
FrancePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
-CorsicaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
GreecePresentNativeGovaerts, 2015East Aegean Is.
-CretePresentNativeOviedo Prieto et al., 2012
IrelandPresent Planted
ItalyPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
-SardiniaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
-SicilyPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
MaltaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2015Cultivated
PortugalPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2015Cultivtaed
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Southern RussiaPresent Planted
San MarinoPresent Planted
SerbiaPresent Planted
SloveniaPresent Planted
SpainPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
SwitzerlandPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
UkrainePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
Yugoslavia (former)PresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)PresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015


AustraliaPresent Planted
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedFlorence et al., 2013Cultivated
GuamPresentIntroducedRaulerson, 2006Cultivated
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedMacKee, 1994Cultivated
New ZealandPresentIntroducedWebb et al., 1988Cultivated

History of Introduction and Spread

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There is a long history of exploitation going back to the times of ancient Mediterranean civilizations. The use of C. sempervirens as an ornamental tree has led to widespread introductions throughout the Mediterranean at least from Roman times to the present and more recently across subtropical and warm temperate regions of the world. The heartland of cypress in Italy is Tuscany, where it is utilized extensively as a forest and ornamental tree; in France it is Val du Rhône, where it is commonly used as a windbreak. In Hawaii, a total of 3000 trees were intentionally planted in forests across the islands between 1923 and 1955 (Little and Skolmen, 2003). By 1863, this species was reported as an “exotic ornamental tree” in Cuba (Pezuela, 1863).  


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C. sempervirens grows in woodlands, interior valleys, and coastal mountains at elevations from 500 m to 2000 m in areas with Mediterranean climate, dry, hot summers and winter rain, or semi-arid habitats (Belov, 2009; Farjon, 2013). It is common in disturbed areas along roadsides, gardens, parks and cemeteries (Farjon, 2005). 

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for C. sempervirens is 2n = 22, 44 (Slavik et al., 1993).

Reproductive Biology

The flowers of C. sempervirens are monoecious and are wind-pollinated (Farjon, 2013).

Physiology and Phenology

Pollen dispersal occurs from January to March, and is dependent on location. Pollination is anemophilous. In June the fertilized female cones are visible (approximately 1 cm) and green. In November they turn pale yellow, and the seed gradually reaches maturation in the second year after pollination, between summer and late autumn. The cones (average 2.5 cm long, 2 cm wide) turn silver-grey and their scales tend to open slightly. In the autumn or more usually in winter, the scales open out further and the seeds are released. It is possible for cones to remain unopened on the tree for many years until a fire induces them to open and subsequently to shed viable seed (Vidakovic, 1991). The tree is very long-lived, with some trees reported to be over 1000 years old.


In the Mediterranean region, C.sempervirens grows associated with Pinus brutia, Juniperus excelsa, Juniperus foetidissima, Juniperus drupacea, Juniperus phoenicea, Quercus spp., Pistacia atlantica, Amygdalus scoparia, and Poterium spinosum (Farjon, 2013).

Environmental Requirements

C. sempervirens grows on sandy, loamy and heavy (clay) soils; for optimal growth it requires some clay in the soil, which can vary from acid to alkaline. It prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil, but does not grow well in very humid soils rich in organic matter. It cannot grow in the shade.

The best growth occurs in regions with a mean annual rainfall of about 1000 mm, and a minimum summer and a mean annual temperature of 15-20°C. It can tolerate a mean annual rainfall of less than 600 mm and droughts lasting several months, but is often poorly distributed in regions with significantly dry summers (Ducrey et al., 1999). It also tolerates winter temperatures as low as -20°C (Puric, 1967). In 1985, much cypress was damaged by temperatures reaching -25°C, with a mean of -17°C for several hours and days. Naturalized populations in Italy and France exhibit good frost hardiness (Raddi and Panconesi, 1989).This species has the capability to survive being covered by snow for several months (Belov, 2009; Farjon, 2009).


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As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
38 -30 0 1750

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -25
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 15 20
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 25 40
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -15 -3


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration03number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall6001000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy

Special soil tolerances

  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis Herbivore All Stages not specific

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. sempervirens spreads by seeds. Cones may persist on the tree for several years because, as with many other Cupressus species, C. sempervirens displays varying levels of serotiny: cones may remain unopened on the tree for many years until a fire induces them to open (Vidakovic, 1991). In cultivation it is often propagated by cuttings and layering (Farjon, 2013).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
DisturbanceAlong roadsides and disturbed sites Yes Yes Belov, 2009
Escape from confinement or garden escapeOften planted as ornamental Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2015
Hedges and windbreaksCommon hedge plant Yes Yes
Industrial purposesEssential oil is distilled from the shoots Yes Yes PROTA, 2015
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes
Timber tradeWood, timber, veneer, door frames, window frames Yes Yes PROTA, 2015

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activities Yes Yes
Soil, sand and gravelSeeds Yes Yes
WindSeeds Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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Areas where Cupressus species have been introduced have shown changes in the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil (Idris and Osman, 2014).

Social Impact

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C. sempervirens pollen causes allergic reactions in the Mediterranean region, and is one of the main causes of respiratory allergies in this area (Shahali et al., 2012). While cypress pollen allergy was first reported only in 1945, the prevalence of cypress pollinosis has been increasing, leading to preventive measures being introduced such as avoidance of planting new cypress trees, especially near human population centres, and trimming of cypress hedges before the pollination season (Charpin et al., 2005).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Soil accretion
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - smothering
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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C. sempervirens is cultivated as an ornamental and timber tree. Its wood is used for furniture, veneer, door frames, and window frames. Medicinal uses have been reported for its fruits which are used as anthelmintic, antipyretic, antirheumatic, antiseptic, aromatherapy, astringent, and vasoconstrictor. An essential oil is distilled from the shoots and it is used in perfumery and soap making. It is also planted as a windbreak in agricultural areas (Vidakovic, 1991; Farjon, 2013; PROTA, 2015). The tree also has symbolic and social value in Mediterranean areas, and is commonly found in cemeteries.

Uses List

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  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Revegetation
  • Windbreak


  • Ornamental


  • Essential oils
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Poisonous to mammals
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Wood Products

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  • Piles
  • Posts

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Bridges
  • Engineering structures
  • Exterior fittings
  • Fences
  • Flooring
  • For light construction
  • Gates
  • Wall panelling


Wood-based materials

  • Laminated veneer lumber
  • Laminated wood


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Gymnosperm Database - Cupressus sempervierens


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04/05/16 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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