"Populations from the three regions of Cupressus goveniana - north coast, Santa Cruz Mountains, and Monterey Peninsula--differ in foliage and seed characters and have been treated as varieties or species; additional interpopulational variation occurs within these regions" (Eckenwalder 1993). Three varieties are recognized here: the type (Monterey County), abramsiana (Santa Cruz mountains) and pigmaea (North Coast). Each has also been described as a distinct species, but a comprehensive analysis using multiple types of genetic markers as well as morphological and chemical traits has confirmed their close relationship (Little 2006).
"Shrubs or small trees usually to 10 m, but to 50 m under favorable conditions, or bearing cones at as little as 2 dm on shallow hardpan soils; crown globose to columnar, dense or sparse. Bark smooth or rough, fibrous. Branchlets decussate, 1-1.5 mm diam. Leaves without abaxial gland or sometimes with embedded abaxial gland that does not produce drop of resin, not glaucous. Pollen cones 3-4 × 1.5-2 mm; pollen sacs 3-6. Seed cones globose, 1-2.5(-3) cm, grayish brown, not glaucous; scales 3-5 pairs, smooth, umbo nearly flat at maturity. Seeds 3-4(5) mm, dark brown to jet black, sometimes slightly glaucous" (Eckenwalder 1993). The type variety is distinguished from var. abramsiana by its smaller (13-20 mm long) cones and darker (brown-black, not glaucous) seeds (Farjon 2005), and from var. pigmaea by its pyramidal crown and shorter, stiff leader (Wolf 1948).
USA: California, at 60-800 m in coastal closed-cone pine forests, especially on sterile soils (Eckenwalder 1993). The type variety is known from two groves in Monterey County, situated near the two groves of the closely related C. macrocarpa (Little 1970). Hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001). See also Thompson et al. (1999).
For the type variety, height 12.2 meters, dbh 53 cm, at Point Lobos State Park (American Forests 2000). Variety abramsiana is larger, but var. pigmaea (despite its epithet) is largest.
Vladimir Dinets (email, 2000.03.16) tells me: "The trees are still present along Seventeen Mile drive in Carmel, but finding them among thousands of C. macrocarpa is time-consuming. The grove in Point Lobos is in upland portion of the preserve, not open for visitors, but a visit can be arranged with park administration."
Herbarium collections have been made in the following locales: 1) In impoverished sandstone soil on the SW slope of Huckleberry Hill, Monterey Peninsula; 2) Cypress Point Pine Barrens, near a large water reservoir back of Seventeen Mile Drive; 3) A seaward hillslope near Gibson Creek, well above Point Lobos State Park road; 4) Canyon of Gibson Creek ca. 2 mi E of Point Lobos; and 5) Pacific Grove, Monterey peninsula.
The species was named by George Gordon in honor of James Robert Gowen, Secretary of the Horticultural Society of London and thus Gordon's boss. The actual work of finding and describing the species, and getting it safely home to London, was done by Karl Theodor Hartweg (1812-1871), a German who spent 1845-1848 plant collecting in California at the behest of the Horticultural Society of London. Hartweg, like David Douglas, was a protege of William Jackson Hooker. He first found this cypress "on the western declivity of the mountains of Monterey in Upper California, within two miles of the sea shore, in company with Pinus muricata, forming a dense bush from 6 to 10 feet in height" (Gordon 1849). Hartweg sent seeds home from California, and Gordon described the species on the basis of plants grown from those seeds. Hartweg later recounted his adventures in several issues of the Horticultural Society's Journal in 1847-1848. Hartweg had a highly productive career, collecting widely from 1836 to 1848 in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, and Mexico, discovering many orchids and other remarkable plants. His later years were spent as director of the Swetingen Gardens in Baden, Germany. His work among the conifers is commemorated in the alpine pine of Mexico and Central America, Pinus hartwegii.
Gordon, George. 1849. New plants, etc., from the Society's garden. 30. Cupressus goveniana Gordon. Journal of the Horticultural Society of London 1849(4): 295-296. http://www.cupressus.net/CUgovenianaGordon.html, courtesy of the Cupressus Conservation Project website.
Adams, R.P. and J.A. Bartel. 2009. Geographic variation in the leaf essential oils of Hesperocyparis (Cupressus) abramsiana, H. goveniana and H. macrocarpa: Systematic implications. Phytologia 91(1):226-243.
Adams, R.P. and J.A. Bartel. Infraspecific variation in Hesperocyparis goveniana and H. pygmaea: ISSRs and terpenoid data. Phytologia 91(2):277-286.
Farjon (2005) provides a detailed account, with illustrations.
Herbarium data for all California species are accessible via the CalFlora Database.
Last Modified 2012-11-23