Conifer Salute

Few gardeners outside of California and the Pacific Northwest have tried growing Cupressus sargentiae (Sargent’s Cypress). We often assume that plants endemic to California won’t grow on the East Coast, but our trials have found such a broad assumption to be quite false. Our specimen from Patrick’s collection north of San Francisco still looks great after our recent 11F temperatures. The amazing lemon-scented foliage fragrance is quite incredible, and as such, should make it a great plant for making holiday arrangements/wreaths. The plant should mature size should be between 40-70′ in height. Taxonomy of this Cupressus is stuck in a taxonomic tug of war, with one camp, who wants to rename it Hesperocyparis sargentii. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b-10, guessing.

Image of Cupressus sargentiae
Cupressus sargentiae

5 thoughts on “Conifer Salute”

  1. One of my favorite West Coast conifers is Libocedrus or Calocedrus decurrens. It has done very well in my Zone 7 (Asheville NC) garden. I am puzzeled that it is not generally available at local suppliers. It stays a beautiful dark green all year, has never shown any browning, has no insect or other problems, at least not for me in 18 years. Why is it not available as a substiture for Leyland Cypress?

    1. I agree with your assessment of Calocedrus decurrens, but unfortunately it is too slow in nursery production for producers to make a profit compared to much faster growing screening conifer options. On the West Coast, the greater difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures causes it and quite a few other conifers to grow much faster, making production much more economically feasible there. In Asheville, your cooler climate could make production more feasible for small specialty growers.

  2. Katherine Wagner-Reiss

    Sorry to be pedantic, but I am trying to learn the rules of
    botanical names, and I am hoping you can answer this question. Why would a plant named for Charles Sargent be called sargentiae, when I learned that the ending -iae is used for a plant named for a woman?
    Thank you.

    1. We love pedantic questions! Plants named after Charles Sargent, like Cupressus sargentii, end in “ii”, which is indeed the case when it is named after a man. Lilium sargentiae, on the other hand, was named after Charles’s wife, Mary Allen Robeson Sargent (1853–1919), so it ends in “iae”. Thanks to our amazing taxonomic staff of Patrick McMillan and Zac Hill for helping unravel this taxonomic mystery.

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