Lawson Cypress: Origin, Characteristics, Lifespan, Cultivars And More

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Lawson cypress, is a species of conifer in the genus Chamaecyparis, family Cupressaceae. It is native to a small region along the Pacific Coast mountain ranges, from Coos Bay in southwestern Oregon to the Klamath River in northwestern California.

It was introduced into Europe in 1854 and named after the Scottish nursery (Lawson & Son) where it was first sent7. It is now established, though not common, in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and United Kingdom, and also outside Europe in Australia, South Africa, Kenya, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

Large tree that can reach 50 m. Has narrow pyramidal shape and usually has branches present near the ground and drooping towards the apex. Bark thick, fibrous and reddish-brown. Leaves are very small, dark green and appressed on the stems with the point free. Male cones are 2–5 mm long and red with dark blue spots. Female cones are 6–9 mm diameter and blue when young, ageing to brown and opening to 8 distinct scales. Seeds 2–4 per scale, winged.

Other common names false cypress, Port Orford cedar, white cedar and ginger pine.

Lawson Falsecypress is suited for the largest landscapes such as in parks, golf courses, large industrial or commercial landscapes or estates. It has somewhat picky cultural requirements and should be grown in full sun in moist, well-drained soil (not clay), in areas of moderate to high humidity, and preferably where the trees can be protected from harsh winds.

Identifying Characteristics and facts

  • Lawson cypress trees can grow up to 200 feet tall in their natural habitat, but in cultivation, they usually reach 40-60 feet in height.
  • The trees have a narrow, pyramidal shape, with a straight trunk and horizontal or slightly drooping branches.
  • The foliage consists of flattened sprays of scale-like leaves that are 1/16 inch long.
  • Leaves are bright green to blue-green in color and have a silver mark on the underside.
  • Female cones are spherical, measuring 1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter. They are green when young and turn brown as they mature.
  • Male cones are smaller and release pollen in the spring.
  • Has a shallow root system that can be susceptible to windthrow in exposed locations. The tree’s roots are not particularly aggressive or invasive.
  • Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8 though it can grow in many climates conditions but usually prefers cool, moist conditions.
  • Has fast-growing tree. It can reach a mature height of 60 to 175 feet and a width of 10 to 20 feet.
  • Can live for several hundred years in ideal conditions.
  • It can tolerate a range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sand.

Cultivars of Lawson Cypress

Cultivar NameGrowth HabitFoliage ColorSize
‘Aurea Densa’Dense, conical growth habitYellow-green1.5 m
‘Chilworth Silver’Broad, columnar shapeSilver-blue2.5 m
‘Dik’s Weeping’Weeping habit, columnarBlue-green12.0 m
‘Ellwoodii’Narrow, columnarGrey-green8.0 m
‘Ellwood’s Gold’Columnar, yellow-green foliageYellow-green4.0 m
‘Ellwood’s Pillar’Narrowly columnar, grey-green foliageGrey-green2.5 m
‘Fletcheri’Columnar, grey-green foliageGrey-green12.0 m
‘Gimbornii’Rounded shapeGrey-green2.5 m
‘Golden Wonder’Columnar, yellow-green foliageYellow-green20.0 m
‘Grayswood Feather’Narrowly columnar, green foliageGreen4.0 m
‘Green Globe’Small, rounded, dark green foliageDark green0.3 m
‘Imbricata Pendula’Weeping habit, conical, pendulousGreen8.0 m
‘Kilmacurragh’Columnar, dark green foliageDark green12.0 m
‘Lanei Aurea’Columnar, yellow-green foliageYellow-green8.0 m
‘Little Spire’Conical, dark green foliageDark green2.5 m
‘Minima Aurea’Small, conical, yellow-green foliageYellow-green1.0 m
‘Minima Glauca’Small, rounded, blue-green foliageBlue-green2.5 m
‘Pembury Blue’Large, conical, blue-green foliageBlue-green12.0 m
‘Pygmaea Argentea’Small, rounded, cream-blue-green foliageCream-blue-green2.5 m
‘Stardust’Columnar, yellow-green foliageYellow-green4.0 m
‘Summer Snow’Conical, cream-green foliageCream-green2.5 m
‘Triomf van Boskoop’Large, broadly columnar, grey-green foliageGrey-green25.0 m
‘Wisselii’Narrowly conical, blue-green foliageBlue-green12.0 m
‘Wissel’s Saguaro’Narrow, upright, blue-green foliageBlue-green6.0 m

Pruning Lawson Cypress

  • Prune your Lawson false cypress in the spring or early summer, and only if you have a good reason for picking up the clippers. Avoid recreational pruning since the tree does not replace lost growth quickly or, in many cases, at all.
  • Cut off dead branches from your Lawson false cypress. Follow each dead branch tip back to the trunk and remove the branch at its point of origin. Remove crossing branches that cause rubbing wounds. Work with garden clippers for branches under ½ inch in diameter and a pruning saw for bigger branches. Avoid using a wound sealant on the tree wound.
  • Trim back the Lawson false cypress lightly to remove brown tips and promote thicker growth. Make heading-back cuts, removing a few inches of the branch tip; make each cut at a branch fork just above the branch union. Avoid severe pruning and any cuts made into old wood or your tree will end up with permanent bare spots. The Lawson false cypress does not form new buds on old wood.
  • Avoid pruning for size control. This towering tree is only suitable for the largest backyards and should not be planted absent ample space. Transplant or remove the Lawson false cypress if it outgrows its assigned space in your garden since you cannot safely trim more than the green, growing tips of this conifer.

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