Members of this genus are natives of North America and Asia. Best known in Europe is the Lawson cypress, introduced there from America in 1854. It has a narrow, conical crown and reaches a height of up to 60 metres. It greatly resembles the arbor-vitae but differs from them in having pendulous terminal shoots, with reddish-brown, scaly bark, narrow white markings on the underside of twigs, and scale-like needles. The greenish female flowers are borne on the tips of the shoots. The cones, green at first, mature in September when they open to release the small, winged seeds.

The Lawson cypress is indiginous in California and Oregon, where it grows in mountain valleys alongside streams and brooks up to elevations of 1500 metres. Young trees grow well in shade, older ones require more light. It thrives best in well-drained but moist soils. In Europe, it is cultivated mainly as an ornamental in parks, forestry plantations being mainly experimental and of small area. The wood is light and durable, and particularly suited for underwater constructions. Of the Asian cypresses, the one most commonly found in Europe is the sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera Sieb et Zucc.), which has a great number of ornamental forms.

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