91113The ‘X’ preceding its Latin name ‘X Cupressocyparis leylanii‘ designates Leyland cypress as a hybrid of two distinct genera, namely Monterey cypress and Nootka cypress. (Those who consider the parents to be two species of the same genus know Leyland cypress as Cupressus X leylandii.) The many cultivars combine desirable qualities of both parents, but also innate weaknesses.

Rows of Leyland cypress grow fast to become densely evergreen windbreaks or informal screens within only a few years. However, they are very susceptible to cypress canker, and are likely to succumb within twenty five years or so. Farther inland, they may not last half as long. That may be quite acceptable for temporary windbreaks in front of slower but more permanent shrubby trees.

Common Leyland cypress develops a distinctly plump but conical form, with slightly grayish foliage. Most other cultivars are more columnar. Foliar color ranges from bluish green to gold. The tiny scale leaves are densely set in flat sprays. Healthy trees can get nearly thirty feet tall in ten years. Most stay lower where exposed. Crowded trees that live long enough exceed a hundred feet tall.

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2 thoughts on “Leyland Cypress

  1. Leylandii are a bit of a bete noir over here. And I suppose that’s fair, because they were born here. Neighbours are at each other’s throats because of the sunlight-sapping qualities of this monster, and there has definitely been violence, including murder, as disputes become generational. The Government had to introduce ‘High Hedges’ legislation to allow councils to step in and reduce the height of hedges where appropriate – almost entirely due to leylandii. An article on the BBC website (admittedly from 2011) declares that there are 55 million and rising leylandii here. They are certainly one of the best selling plants, and seem to live forever. Those of a gloomy disposition prophesy that when humankind has done its dash, all that will be left of cities is leylandii forests.

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    1. They are unpopular here as well, but only because they do not last long. People want trees to last forever. I just did not want to say that. Most municipalities require permits to remove established trees, so it is not sensible to plant temporary trees. Years ago, a new landscape could be outfitted with cottonwoods to provide shade quickly while the more desirable shade trees matured. The cottonwoods could be subordinated to the more desirable trees. As the desirable trees grew, the cottonwoods could be removed. However, as tree preservation ordinances were enforced, the cottonwoods were protected. They grew huge, caused significant damage to the infrastructure around the, and shades out the desirable trees, only to die after doing so.

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