Forest 34 - Pencil Pine

Cupressus sempervirens 'Stricta'

Pencil pine trees. Photo not from the Arboretum Seed cones of Pencil pines in Forest 34.

Other common names

Italian cypress.

Origin of the species name

Cupressus is Latin for cypress; sempervirensis Latin for evergreen; 'Stricta' is the cultivar name that refers to the trees erect and upright form.



Date planted



Trees of this species can be very long lived.

General description 

This is a medium sized tree that, for the cultivar 'Stricta', develops a nearly parallel upright form. The bark on the short exposed trunk becomes thick, hard and grey-brown. The scale-like leaves are often a greyish green with a covering of wax. The fruit is singular or grouped on the branches and mature over two growing seasons. Height 18m Spread 4m.

Natural distribution and habitat  

The species is native to the eastern Mediterranean region including countries in eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa where it grows on slopes and in valleys in rocky and usually limestone soils in areas with hot dry summers and winter rain.

Conservation status

Neither the species nor the cultivar are classified as threatened.

Planting pattern

Planted in a diamond grid. This planting occupies an area known as Roman Cypress Hill, most of which now lies on the other side of the highway, forming part of the Lindsay Pryor Arboretum. The trees were planted between 1919 and 1921 by Charles Weston, long before the highway was constructed and divided the hill in two. Most of the mature trees were lost in the 2003 bush fire but have since been replanted using seed collected by CSIRO from the site in 1992. Forest 34 replaces the visual link that previously existed, with these trees now growing on both sides of the road cutting.


The timber of the species has been used in the Mediterranean area for a long time because of its resistance to rot. The upright form of the species has been used in the same region in landscaping since Roman times and is now used throughout the world. The species was known by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a mournful tree and in Australia the pencil pine has been very widely used in cemeteries.

Further reading

Farjon, A (2010) A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Brill.