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Cupressus dupreziana

Cupressus dupreziana
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Product Information

Scientific name: Cupressus dupreziana   A. Camus  1926

Synonyms: Cupressus dupreziana var. dupreziana, Cupressus dupreziana subsp. lereddei (Gaussen) Silba, Cupressus lereddei Gaussen, Cupressus sempervirens var. dupreziana (A.Camus) Silba, Tassilicyparis dupreziana (A.Camus) A.V.Bobrov & Melikyan

Common names: Saharan cypress, Tuareg cypress, Tassili cypress, Algerian cypress, Cyprès de Duprez (French)



Trees to 16(-20) m tall; monopodial; trunk to 2-3 m in diameter. Bark eventually becoming thick, deeply fissured, hard, grey-brown, exfoliating slowly in small strips. Branches long, spreading or ascending, sometimes fastigiated, forming a conical or pyramidal, or in old trees sympodial, irregular and broad, dense crown. Foliage branches spreading or drooping-pendulous, slender, ultimate branchlets irregularly spreading or (sub) pendulous, subterete to slightly flattened in cross section, 1-1.5(-2) mm diam., slightly torose, persistent. Leaves covering branchlets decussate, imbricate, decurrent, (nearly) monomorphic, scale-like, with facials equal in size to laterals, on ultimate branchlets 1-1.2 mm long and rhombic, slightly gibbous, with appressed obtuse or acute apex (on whip shoots up to 5 mm long); margins minutely denticulate-hyaline; glands on all scale leaves (most conspicuous on facials; stomata few, scattered primarily on margins near leaf bases; leaf colour lustrous greyish green or glaucous green, often covered in thick cuticular wax. Pollen cones solitary and terminal on ultimate branchlets, ovoid-oblong, 4-6×2-3 mm; microsporophylls 12-16, decussate, peltate, bearing 3-4 abaxial pollen sacs near the lower margin. Seed cones mostly solitary on lateral branches, terminal, maturing in 2 growing seasons, persistent, subglobose to ovoid-oblong when closed, 15-27×13-21 mm, maturing to light brown with mostly parting scales. Seeds 6-8(-10) on each scale, closely packed, flattened, 5-6×4-5 mm, dark brown with whitish hilum at base; wings 2 on opposite sides, more or less equal in size and shape, 1-2 mm wide.

This variety is endemic to Algeria where it occurs to the south-west edge of the Tassili Plateau within the geographical Regions of Maddak, Tassili-Hedjirit and Amiok. Here it has an altitudinal range of 1,430 to 1,830 m with an extent of occurrence (EOO) of 1,000 km². Its range occupies a strip of 120 km in length and between 6 and 15 km wide and contains 46 sites. The area of occupancy has not been calculated but is likely to be much less than 500 km2 given the small total population size and restricted habitat.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered

The total known population is less than 250 individuals (C1). An estimated continuing decline of at least 25% within the next 25 years (one generation) is very likely due to continuing pressures from collection of firewood, mutilation by travellers, grazing and a lack of regeneration.

Up until the 1940s it was thought that there were no more than ten living individuals, however by 1949 the population estimate increased to 200, although for a long time the original number of 10 was still widely believed and quoted. Between 1971 and 1972 Säid Grim counted 230 living trees and numbered each one – these numbers still remain on the trees today. An inventory between 1997 and 2001 conducted by Abdoun and Beddiaf discovered that 20 of the 230 trees had died but they added 23 new individuals making a total of 253 individuals. The current population size is therefore 233 living trees, in varying states of health. At Tamghit (24°38’ N) and Ellidj (24°55’ N) there are a few scattered individuals which survive by clinging to the mountainsides or hidden in the ravines, while, north and south of this zone trees occur in groups of four to fifteen together, mostly confined to the less accessible wadis. The distance between trees varies from 1 metre to 10 kilometres and their density, from a single standing tree to about thirty. The trees with a circumference of between 3 to 4 m are estimated to be between 1,200 and 2,300 years of age. The population decline is estimated to be 8% over a period of 30 years.

The trees grow on the summits of mountains or in the bottoms of valleys and gorges, where precipitation is estimated to be 30 mm per year. Sixty-eight percent of the trees are located in Wadi beds, 22% in rock (palaeozoic sandstone) fissures and 8% on ridges. Due to the present mutilated condition of most trees, it is not possible to characterise exactly the most favourable conditions for the species. It is in the rocky areas with little apparent soil that we find the greatest number of cypresses with their typical pyramidal shape. Phytosociologically the cypress is merely regarded by some authors as a companion species as it appears to have no link with the current surrounding flora. A phytohistorical study, based on charcoal, showed that approximately during the mid-Holocene time, that in this region were found Pistacia atlantica with Olea europaea ssp laperrinei.  About ten of the newly listed trees are very young, indicating that a small amount of recruitment does continue in spite of the current drought. It was thought that there was no regeneration until the discovery of two new individuals with circumferences of 32 and 37 cm. In its juvenile stage this cypress shows remarkable growth vigour.

In 1860 there were records from the Touaregs of Ghat of this species occurring 100 km further north than it is today (almost at latitude 26° N). By 1926, Captain Duprez recorded that its range had become restricted to the region to the south known as Edehi. The disappearance during this period was due to the inhabitants using the timber for carpentry and construction; caravans were organised to extract and transport the wood. Despite its adaptation to the extremely arid conditions of the Tassili Plateau, this species is under serious from climate change, fire and the collection of firewood. The trees contain high levels of resin, which has meant that the wood has been invaluable for construction and hence its historical use which has led to the decimation of the population. As a result of the great drought of the 1970s the nomads of Tassili have now settled and have been replaced by tourists (on average 1,000 each year). Yet another danger is, however, caused by young refugees (commonly known as ‘clandestins’) who cross the Tassili Plateau from countries south of Algeria. On a daily-basis they burn its wood, sometimes charring the roots of trees, by lighting campfires too close to the trees. The tourists and the animals (horses and dromedaries) that are used to transport the tourists have also degraded the area due to excessive trampling. Grazing has had a detrimental effect. Many trees have become mutilated as a result of the removal of fire wood as a source of heat (and fuel) for the tourist – the tourist season is during the winter when night time temperature can reach as low as -7°C. Natural regeneration of 2 to 3 trees per century is obviously not sufficient to sustain the population under current conditions.

The population is in Tassili N'Ajjer National Park which has been designated a World Heritage Site. Despite this protection, the trees and their environment are still subject to degradation associated with tourism. Visiting tourists need to be made aware of the value of these extraordinary trees. There needs to be an increase in the number of National Park staff to protect the area. Organizations such as the National Institute of Forest Research have been harvesting seed, cultivating them in nurseries and establishing plantations. Recent research relating to regeneration and dendrology has improved our knowledge of its biology and should assist with its conservation. There need to be preventative measures put in place to stop the degradation of the trees and their environment and there is a considerable amount of work to be done in order to raise public awareness of this species in order to help safeguard its future.



  • Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
  • Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland

Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.

Product CodeCUPSFLVV11
Weight1.5 kg
Height50 - 60 cm

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