The Cypress Family
The plants comprising the Cypress family are bisexual and unisexual resinous and aromatic terrestrial trees and shrugs with or without knee-like roots (Taxodium). Lateral branches are clothed by scale-like leaves. The leaves are simple, persistent or deciduous , alternate and spirally arranged, opposite in four ranks or whorled, deltate to linear, sessile or petiolate. Twigs often have two type of leaves (heterophyllous). Male cones are axillary or terminal, solitary or in cluster of 2 – 5 sometime in panicles. The cones are spherical to oblong and the sporophylls overlap bearing 2 – 10 pollen sacs. Female cones are compound, axillary, terminal solitary or in clusters of 2 -5; the female cone scales overlap ad are fused to subtending bracts. The scale bears 1 – 20 ovules. Seeds are wingless or with 2 -3 wings. The family is nearly cosmopolitan found on all continents except for Antarctica. Cupressaceae is composed of 30 genera. The Cupressaceae comprises the largest (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and the tallest (Sequoia sempervirens) trees in the world. Numerous members of this family are harvested for wood. Many of the species wood is resistant to fungal decay and termite damage. Because many species have aromatic wood, they have been referred to as ‘cedar wood’, a misnomer since the cedar are part of the Pinaceae. Fleshy cones of Juniperus commjunis are commonly used to flavor English gin and German sauerkraut. Cupressus is the Latin name for a cypress tree, from Greek kuparissos. In legend this tree was sacred to the god Pluto who changed his grieving boy companion Cyparissos into a cypress tree, hence the frequency of this tree growing in Mediterranean graveyards.