Tree Species Highlight

A mature Arizona cypress tree in Edmond.

Cuppressus arizonica (Arizona cypress)

Though spring is right around the corner, according to my fully blooming peach tree, I’m going to get in one more tree for our "Species Highlight" that adds color to our winter landscape: the Arizona Cypress. I’m frequently asked for suggestions of evergreens that do well here in Central Oklahoma, and from my experience the Arizona Cypress is one of our top performers; However, with that being said I try to never recommend only one species because diversity is so critical to our landscapes and our urban forest. We will cover other outstanding evergreen options in future segments, or you can find a list on our website.

In the meantime, I want to point out a few of the great attributes of the Arizona Cypress. From my experience, I know that this tree is a very rapid grower. Fast growth often equals weaker wood which is not so good for most trees, but I’ve not seen weak wood be a problem with the Arizona Cypress, mostly due to its shape and stature. Every place that we have planted this tree, I’ve been very pleased with it. For this article I wanted to get insight from someone I know who has been growing lots of these trees, for years, John Knight of Sorghum Mill Christmas Tree and Blackberry Farm. John grows ‘Carolina Safire’, ‘Silver Smoke’ and ‘Blue Ice’ for Christmas trees and landscape trees, right here in Edmond. He told me his experience is that there is essentially “no known pest” that bothers this tree and that they are well adapted to dry conditions once established.

There are many resources conflicting as to the relationship between Arizona cypress and the smooth cypress but at the nursery I commonly see ‘Blue Ice’, ‘Gareei’, ‘Carolina Safire’ and ‘Silver Smoke’ sold as cultivars of Cupressus arizonica. These each vary in their shade of silver, grey, blue and green. You can also expect a slightly different growth form with each of these but generally, plan on a mature width of over 15’ and a height around 25’ for most landscape applications.

The Arizona cypress is a great evergreen option for central Oklahoma. The impressive silver blue-green color does make the tree really stand out. Like most things, moderation is key to successfully incorporating this into the landscape and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this specimen all year long.

- Ryan Ochsner, Edmond Urban Forestry Coordinator