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Tecate Cypress
Hesperocyparis forbesii
About Tecate Cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii) Nurseries Show All Photos Cupressus forbesii (Tecate Cypress) is a species of cypress native to Southern California and Mexico. It is a relict species from a time when southern California's climate was cooler and wetter. It survives in a few, isolated locations in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties, as well as northern Baja. It depends on intermittent fire for reproduction, but too frequent fires kill seedlings and threaten the survival of the species. The foliage is bright green with reddish bark. Young trees are pyramidal in shape, becoming more rounded or contorted with age. It is very drought tolerant; excessive supplemental water will make it floppy. In recent years Tecate Cypress has become a fairly popular small tree for southern California gardens.

The northernmost stand, comprising a very large area on the upper limits of Coal Canyon and Sierra Peak in Orange County, California, burned in a 2006 wildfire. Very few mature trees survived, however regeneration is occurring by the hundreds, if not thousands. However given another devastating wildfire before seedlings are able to reach cone-producing age (which can be quite old for this species), this stand could easily be extirpated. Cupressus forbesii is sometimes referred to as a being a variety of Cupressus guadalupensis, which occurs - well over two hundred and fifty miles away from any C. forbesii stand - on Guadalupe Island. Aside from the fact that it is easy to surmise that C. forbesii is genetically different from Guadalupe Cypress due to the two species being separated by an ocean, molecular testing has shown the latter to be slightly more closely related to Cupressus stephensonii. Major differences between C. guadalupensis and C. forbesii being that Guadalupe Cypress, when mature, makes a much more massive and taller tree than Tecate Cypress. Guadalupe Cypress also has waxy pale, somewhat blue-ish tinted foliage, while Tecate Cypress has very green foliage. Cupressus guadalupensis cones will open without fire, while C. forbesii cones differ from any other species of California Cypress, in that even once disconnected from the parent tree, the cones will not open without heat.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
33 ft (10.1 m)

Max. Width
25 ft (7.6 m)


Growth Rate
Fast, Moderate


Green, scale-like, and tightly and crowded on the twig in opposite pairs.

Native Status
Natural Setting
Site Type
Scattered mountain sites in the Peninsular Range


Elevation ?
414' - 5422'

Annual Precip. ?
11.8" - 26.4"

Summer Precip. ?
0.25" - 1.79"

Coldest Month ?
41.6° F - 53.0° F

Hottest Month ?
67.4° F - 78.4° F

Humidity ?
1.41 vpd - 25.10 vpd

Soil Description
Typically metavolcanic soils but also tolerates clay and sand

Soil Texture
Sandy Clay

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.0

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -10° F

Companion Plants
In the garden it can be used with chaparral plants that like relatively dry conditions such as Red Shanks (Adenostoma sparsifolium), Ceanothus sp., Flannelbush (Fremontodendron californicum or mexicanum), Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), Small-leaf Rose (Rosa minutifolia), and Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei)

Wildlife Attracted
The Tecate Cypress is the singular host plan for the rare Thorne's Hairstreak butterly (Callophrys gryneus thornei).

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low, Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water, 1x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Propagation ?
Tecate Cypress has serotinous cones, meaning they open after heating from fire. Collect cones by cutting them from the limbs and open cones by boiling them for 30-60 seconds to release seeds. Cool-moist stratify the seeds for 30 days at 34 degrees. Seeds will germinate at 72 degrees after stratification, however viability may be low.

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Hedges, Deer Resistant, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Botanical Names
Callitropsis forbesii,Cupressus forbesii

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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