CPC Plant Profile: Santa Cruz Island Cypress
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Plant Profile

Santa Cruz Island Cypress (Hesperocyparis abramsiana var. abramsiana)

The Santa Cruz cypress can grow to 34 feet (10 meters) tall with vibrant green scale-like foliage. This particular plant has not reached its maximum height yet. Photo Credit: Holly Forbes
Description
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Threatened
  • Family: Cupressaceae
  • State: CA
  • Nature Serve ID: 161494
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 08/30/1988

Santa Cruz cypress is an erect, densely branched, compact, coniferous tree with slender branchlets and cones containing six to eight seeds per scale. It grows on old marine sandstones or granitic soils in chaparral and closed-cone pine forest communities. This cypress is restricted to a localized area within the Santa Cruz Mountains near Bonny Doon and Eagle Rock in Santa Cruz County, California. It also occurs at Butano Ridge in San Mateo County. Its distribution suggests that Santa Cruz cypress is a relict species, representing a type of vegetation widespread during glacial times but now confined to scattered sites (CDFG 2002).

Participating Institutions
Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 08/18/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

In 2021, CPC contracted the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum to recollect seed from a population currently held in long term orthodox seed storage as part of an IMLS-funded seed longevity experiment. The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation will evaluate how germination tested viability and RNA Integrity of seed lots decline over time in storage.

  • 09/15/2020
  • Genetic Research

Various studies have been conducted on Santa Cruz cypress, including: reproductive biology (Kuhlmann 1986) demographics (Lyons 1988) variations of leaf monoterpenes (Zavarin and Thomas 1971) and preliminary analysis of genetic variability (USFWS 1998)

  • 09/15/2020
  • Demographic Research

Various studies have been conducted on Santa Cruz cypress, including: reproductive biology (Kuhlmann 1986) demographics (Lyons 1988) variations of leaf monoterpenes (Zavarin and Thomas 1971) and preliminary analysis of genetic variability (USFWS 1998)

  • 09/15/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Various studies have been conducted on Santa Cruz cypress, including: reproductive biology (Kuhlmann 1986) demographics (Lyons 1988) variations of leaf monoterpenes (Zavarin and Thomas 1971) and preliminary analysis of genetic variability (USFWS 1998)

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, University of California-Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden holds 2 accessions of Hesperocyparis abramsiana in orthodox seed collection. We are uncertain as to how many total seeds are in this collection.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, University of California Botanical Garden holds 2 accessions of Hesperocyparis abramsiana in orthodox seed collection. We are uncertain as to how many total seeds are in this collection.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden holds 15 accessions of Hesperocyparis abramsiana in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 159508 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, University of California-Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden has collected 2 seed accessions of Hesperocyparis abramsiana from 1 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass an unknown number of maternal plants

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, University of California Botanical Garden has collected 2 seed accessions of Hesperocyparis abramsiana from 1 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass an unknown number of maternal plants

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Known from fewer than 10, relatively isolated populations, all located in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. There are about 5,100 individuals occupying a total of about 142 ha. There are no imminent threats from habitat alteration or destruction, but the species is somewhat threatened by disruption of natural fire cycles, introgression with other species of cypress, and the potential for oil and gas drilling.

Holly Forbes
  • 01/01/2010

Urban development Agricultural conversion Logging Alteration of fire regimes Genetic introgression from planted cypress (C. macrocarpa, C. glabra) Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1998

Holly Forbes
  • 01/01/2010

This species is known only from five populations in the Santa Cruz Mountains: Bonny Doon with over 3000 plants (about half of these are managed by the California Department of Fish and Game as part of the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve). Eagle Rock with 700 plants (located within Big Basin Redwoods State Park). Bracken Brae with over 200 plants (private land). Butano Ridge with over 200 plants (located within Pescadero Creek County Park). Majors Creek with over 1000 plants (private land). The total number of plants is over 5100. Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998

Holly Forbes
  • 01/01/2010

Various studies have been conducted on Santa Cruz cypress, including: reproductive biology (Kuhlmann 1986) demographics (Lyons 1988) variations of leaf monoterpenes (Zavarin and Thomas 1971) and preliminary analysis of genetic variability (USFWS 1998)

Holly Forbes
  • 01/01/2010

Santa Cruz County ordinance implements the county's General Plan (1994) and Local Coastal Plan (1980) to provide for a declaration of private lands where Santa Cruz cypress occurs. No disturbance (i.e., cutting trees or grading) is allowed on private lands supporting Santa Cruz cypress. A 50-foot buffer between such habitat and adjacent development is also required. The Butano Ridge population is also protected by the San Mateo County heritage-class tree ordinance, which regulates the removal and trimming of native trees through the California Department of Forestry permitting process (USFWS 1998).

Holly Forbes
  • 01/01/2010

Ecological requirements Fire ecology (impact of alteration of natural fire cycles) Population demographics (focused on identifying the life history stages critical to maintaining population viability) Secondary impacts from adjacent land uses

Holly Forbes
  • 01/01/2010

Seed collection from each of the five populations for long-term storage is needed.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Hesperocyparis abramsiana var. abramsiana
Authority (C. B. Wolf) Bartel
Family Cupressaceae
CPC Number 1151
ITIS
USDA HEABA
Common Names Santa Cruz cypress | Santa Cruz Island cypress
Associated Scientific Names Cupressus abramsiana | Callitropsis abramsiana | Cupressus goveniana var. abramsiana | Hesperocyparis abramsiana var. abramsiana
Distribution Santa Cruz cypress is known only from San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, California, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (USFWS 1998)
State Rank
State State Rank
California SNR
Habitat

Associated with coastal chaparral communities above the fog belt at 300-760 m. Some groves contain yellow pine and closed-cone pine forest elements. Soils are typically shallow, very well drained sands and sandy-gravelly loams which are low in nutrients. (USFWS 1998)

Ecological Relationships

Santa Cruz cypress reaches maturity at an average of 11 years, although some may produce cones at six years. The ovulate cones take two years to mature with seeds maturing at 15 to 18 months after pollination. The cones remain on the tree and remain closed until the vascular connection with the parent plant is severed (USFWS 1998). Fire or other disturbance that exposes bare mineral soil may enhance the rate of seedling establishment.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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