Penland Tree Farm

Leyland Cypress

Leyland Cypress Christmas Tree

penland_037The name Leyland cypress is used to describe a group of trees where all the members are sterile hybrids. There are no naturally occurring Leyland cypress. They must be propagated by rooted cuttings.

This tree is a hybrid of Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and Alaskan cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). In 1888, six seedlings were discovered by C.J. Leyland at Leighton Hall in the South of Wales. The two parent trees were growing on the Estate and cross bred purely by accident. Intergeneric crossbreeding is a rare occurrence in plants and particularly in conifers.

Leyland Cypress Christmas TreeMr. Leyland continued to develop the trees with the assistance of his nephew J.M. Naylor during the early 1900’s. In 1941, rooted cuttings arrived in United States, through California, for the first time. Then in 1965, they found their way to South Carolina where their potential for use as Christmas trees became apparent to Dr. Roland Schoenike (of the Clemson University Forestry Department), Marvin Gaffney (Director of Nurseries for the South Carolina Forestry Commission) and Tom Wright (a private Christmas tree grower and NCTA Director).

The foliage of the Leyland cypress varies somewhat from one cultivar to the next. But in general it tends to be arranged in irregularly flat planes with a dark green to gray color. The shoots branch repeatedly and have a contrasting mahogany color except at the tips. The trees have little aroma.

The bark of the Leyland cypress is has a skin-like texture and is quite delicate. In its mature form, heights of 138′ are expected, and the tree is capable of withstanding temperatures of about 0ø F.