North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Peter J. Bryant

Tecate Cypress

Cupressus forbesii
(Hesperocyparis forbesii)
(Callitropsis forbesii)

Grows in chaparral and woodland habitats at 1,000 to 8000 ft.  It is native to the western Peninsular Ranges where there are four main populations in Orange County (Coal, Fremont, and Gypsum Canyons of the northern Santa Ana Mountains) and San Diego County (Tecate and Otay Mountains, the largest population) in Southern California; and northern Baja California, Mexico. The northernmost stand, in Orange County, which comprises a large area on the upper limits of Coal Canyon and Sierra Peak, burned in a 2006 wildfire (one of six large fires over the last 100 yrs.).  Very few mature trees survived but regeneration is occurring by the hundreds to thousands. However, another wildfire before trees are able to reach cone-producing age, which can be quite old for this species (30-40 yrs.), could extirpate the stand (Wikipedia). Plantings of individual trees and reseeding after fires have scattered a few cypresses in unexpected places outside its native range.

A short, monoecious, shrubby, multi-trunked, evergreen tree. Branches ascending on young trees; can occur in dense stands reaching 3-6 ft., but typically up to 30 ft. tall; thin bark exfoliates in plates revealing a smooth, polished, cherry red, or reddish brown, resembling sycamore or eucalyptus.   Older bark is brown.  The Tecate Cypress is the only plant on which the rare Thorne's Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus thornei) lays its eggs (Wikipedia). Used as windbreaks and hedges in hot dry interior locations in Southern California. 

Status: Endangered species list 1B.1 of the California Native Plant Society (species that are rare and threatened throughout their range, and occur primarily within California).

Management report. Natural stands: CNF1, CNF2, CNF3, CNF4

Back to Cupressaceae of Orange County, California
Back to Eudicots of Orange County, California
Back to Natural History of Orange County, California


North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Peter J. Bryant

North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Joan Avise

Elsinore Peak, E & S, 2-23-12. © Ron Vanderhoff.

Coal Cyn. and Coal Cyn. Trail, 8-21-11. © Ron Vanderhoff.

Coal Cyn. and Coal Cyn. Trail, 8-21-11. © Ron Vanderhoff.

North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Peter J. Bryant

Gypsum Cyn., 3-27-11. © Ron Vanderhoff.

North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Joan Avise

Coal Cyn. and Coal Cyn. Trail, 8-21-11. © Ron Vanderhoff.

Leaves light green, scale-like, 1/16 in. long, sharply pointed, overlapping and pressed tightly against each other to form leaf-like structures; small, inconspicuous, resin pit on most leaves; white waxy film gives a grayish appearance.  North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Joan Avise

Terminal male pollen cones 1/8 in. long, with 12-14 scales; 6-10 pollen sacs per scale. North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Joan Avise

Spheric 3/4 to 1 1/4 in. woody seed cones, dull brown to gray with 6-12 abutting, wedge-shaped scales having inconspicuous projections.  Seed cones mature in the 2nd year, are generally closed and stay attached beyond maturity (>2 yrs.).  There are 60-150 flat 2-winged brown or red-brown seeds (with wart-like pitch pockets) per cone.  Cones can remain unopened on the trees for many years until fire, which typically kills the trees but is necessary for the cones to open to release their seeds. North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Joan Avise

Coal Cyn. and Coal Cyn. Trail, 8-21-11. © Ron Vanderhoff.

Open seed cone. North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Joan Avise

Open seed cone. North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Joan Avise

Open seed cones. North Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest, Orange Co., CA. 2-1-12. © Joan Avise
 

Coal Cyn. and Coal Cyn. Trail, 8-21-11. © Ron Vanderhoff.

Coal Cyn. and Coal Cyn. Trail, 8-21-11. © Ron Vanderhoff.