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Cupressus dupreziana var. atlantica

Cupressus dupreziana  var. atlantica
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Product Information

Scientific name: Cupressus dupreziana var. atlantica   (Gaussen) Silba   1998

Synonyms: Cupressus atlantica Gaussen, Cupressus dupreziana subsp. atlantica (Gaussen) Silba, Cupressus sempervirens var. atlantica (Gaussen) Silba    

Common names: Atlas cypress, Moroccan cypress, Cyprès de l'Atlas (French)



Trees to 20(-35) 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). Scale leaves blue-green with light wax and resin from active glands. 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 Morocco in the Region of Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz and the Province of Marrakech. The precise area is located in the Oued n'Fiss Valley 60 km south of Marakech, between Tizi-n-Test road, south of Asni. In total there are 8 sites (Bellefontaine 1979) which together represent a single location. The current actual area of occupancy is estimated to be 14.58 km² (Achhal 1986) while the extent of occurrence, based on recent herbarium specimens from across its known range, is 40 km²; 1,000-2,200 m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered

Cupressus dupreziana var atlantica has undergone a recent decline of 73% over a 36 year period (1950-1986: Achhal 1986) in the area of occupancy. This decline is sufficient for an assessment of Endangered under A2 criteria. However, the estimated current extent of occurrence is 40 km2 which is within the 100 km2 threshold for Critically Endangered under the B1 criteria. It is known from a single location where the primary threat across that range comes from overgrazing and an associated lack of regeneration. Secondary threats include over-collection of seed. In addition, there is a continuing decline in the quality of habitat and the number of mature individuals. According to IUCN guidelines, the highest category of threat should be used and therefore an assessment of Critically Endangered is warranted.

The taxon consists of a single population within a single location. A ground survey (using binoculars) of four of the eight known locations estimated that the number of individuals is at least 6,650 trees (Tigouramine: 100; Targa-n-Ait Iratene: 200; Rikt: 1,350; Achachi: 5,000+) (Griffiths 1998). Estimates of the actual AOO indicates a reduction from c.55 km² (Boudy, 1950) to only 14.58 km² (Achhal 1986) which over a 36 year period gives a reduction of some 73% (Griffiths 1998). Most trees are semi-mature to mature and in excess of 100 years old (Boudy 1950, Bellefontaine 1969, Griffiths 1998).

Grows in a temperate semi-arid to dry Mediterranean climate with periods of drought and snow.  All stands occur on steep-sided mountain slopes in an altitudinal range of between 1,000 and 2,200 m. Three of the four stands studied grow on south-east facing slopes, the stand at Targa-n-Ait Iratene is on a north-facing slope (Griffiths 1998). The substrate is shale or schist and crystalline soils of granites and occasionally of calcareous soils which are unstable and constantly eroding (Bellefontaine 1979, Achhal 1986). Associated woody species include: Juniperus phoenicea and Tetraclinis articulata with the shrubs: Lavandula dentata. var. dentata, L. maroccana, Launaea arborescens and Warionia saharae and the herbs include: Carlina brachylepis Cymbopogon schoenanthus, Eryngium ilicfolium, Globularia alypum, Linaria ventricosa, Ononis natrix subsp. prostrata and Polygala balansae.

Threats include seed collecting, grazing and climate change. During a survey undertaken by Griffiths (1998) it was found that much damage was caused to the trees by local Berbers who were collecting seed unsustainably for commercial horticultural use in Marrakech. The survey found that 84% of the trees were either severely or moderately damaged, 14% had little damage and only 2% of the trees had no damage. Grazing by goats and donkeys in all four stands studied is also a problem and is on a large scale involving large numbers of animals. Such grazing pressures has a detrimental effect on regeneration (Bellefontaine 1979, Achhal 1986), this is also substantiated by local Berbers (Griffiths 1998). Germination tests concluded that the seeds are viable in all four locations but it is not just the pressures of excessive grazing that prevent regeneration but also the steep, constantly eroding slopes. According to the Direction des Eaux et Forêts State the climate has changed noticeably over recent years and as a result there is less rainfall and higher summer temperatures (Griffiths 1998).

Historically, the wood was utilised for making joists and beams in order to build houses and in the building of large gates for the entrances of old town walls (Bellefontaine 1979, Achhal 1986). The larger branches of the trees were utilised to make chairs and tables and other furniture and the smaller branches were collected during the summer and stored for winter feed for the local Berber herds of goats and donkeys. Today substantial amounts of seeds are collected annually for commercial horticulture.

Some conservation strategies have been implemented by the Direction des Eaux et Forêts including fencing off the sub-populations of Rikt and Achachi and at the former some replanting has been carried but due to lack of after-care the survival rate has been low (Griffiths 1998). It is cultivated in botanic gardens and arboreta in Europe and the USA.



  • 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 CodeCUPF9KGT70
Weight1.5 kg
Height50 - 60 cm

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