Monterey Cypresses

A Quest for Monterey Cypresses

The Monterey cypress is one of California's westernmost trees. Grafted onto Pacific cliffs, trunks twisted into twirled signposts, the cypress trees are the first windbreak against ocean-whipped storms.

There are only two places in the world where these trees grow naturally. Both are on the Central Coast of California near Monterey, at Point Lobos Reserve and Del Monte Forest at Point Cypress. In these groves, the trunks seemed to take on the color of the nearby rocks and the shapes of curving waves. These trees have great names, such as Octopus Tree, to reflect their unique, from-the-sea shapes.

The cones of the cypress are large and have molecular shapes like jingle bells. I wonder if they ever drop into the sea and what happens to them. Do they sink like lost anchors?

Despite the remote location of only two natural groves and the futility of dropping cones near the sea, Monterey cypress trees are thriving. Gardeners have planted them away from their original groves, and they thrive as windbreaks up and down the California coast. In sheltered locations such as Morro Bay, they grow in predictable symmetry. The one I have photographed below does not have the famous twisted shape of Monterey's the Lone Cypress or Ghost Tree (to see those wonderful trees, take the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach).

Cypress Symbolism

For me, the cypress symbolizes the first green a Pacific sailor might have seen long ago. It is both a tree of the sea and land. Fittingly, some builders use the decorative wood to make boats, the tree's ultimate journey to the ocean.


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