Cypress trees are hardwood trees and shrubs in the family Cupressaceae, a conifer that thrives in northern areas. These conifers with pine cones and needle-like leaves are planted as landscaping accents and for privacy. Cypress trees are large, fast-growing evergreens that grow 2 feet or more every year, and some species live up to hundreds of years.
Most of the trees commonly called cypress fall in the genera Chamaecyparis and Cupressa, depending on whether they are shrubs or trees. Other cypress trees in the Cupressaceae family include Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata), cypress pines (Actinostrobus and Callitris) and Patagonian cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides).
Types of cypress trees include pond cypress, Hinoki cypress, bald cypress, Italian cypress, Nootka cypress, Macnab cypress, Monterey cypress, Arizona cypress, Gowen cypress and Leyland cypress. Although all types are similar in certain aspects, each has a unique set of characteristics that sets it apart from the rest, such as appearance, planting requirements, growing habits, area of origin and their respective hardiness zones.
Bald cypress features flat leaves between 1/4 and 3/4 inches long, and thrives in swampy and coastal areas in the South. These trees thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 10. Leyland cypress features flat branches, soft needles and grows in zones 6 to 10. Italian cypress grows taller than 60 feet, but has a narrower trunk than most other varieties. It thrives in zones 7 to 11. Arizona cypress does well in hot, dry conditions, and in zones 7 to 9.
Cypress trees are commonly used for landscaping purposes. These trees are also famed for their wood, which is hard, durable and features a rich reddish-brown color. It is used for lumber, shingles for roofs, mulch, railroad ties, fence posts and furniture. Many gardeners shape some varieties of cypress trees into artistic topiary forms that enhance the surrounding landscape. Because these trees grow abundantly, the foliage grows quickly in the formed shape or design and remains green all year round. Cypress trees are also known to be fire-resistant, and are the most flood-resistant tree in Florida.
Cypress trees are susceptible to diseases such as Cercospora needle blight, a fungal disease that spreads upwards and causes needles to turn brown; Phytophthora root rot that exists in soils where drainage is poor; Annosus root rot, which occurs on freshly cut stumps; and Botryosphaeria and Seiridium canker, which causes stems, branches and twigs to die back.