Characteristics of Mountain Cypress Tree (Widdringtonia nodiflora) in the Wild

Widdringtonia nodiflora
Mountain cypress (Widdringtonia nodiflora) is a species native to Widdringtonia in South Africa. The tree grows in highlands, usually among rocks on fire-prone mountain slopes. They usually appear in small groups, such as the grove on the mountain above Kirstenbosch.

The natural distribution of Mountain cypress extends from Malawi and Mozambique through Zimbabwe to northern South Africa. It is the only widely distributed species in its genus and the only one that is not endangered.

This tree thrives at altitudes of 0-3000 m asl, especially at higher elevations. Mountain cypress can sprout again from the rest of the plant after a fire.

There are three recorded varieties of the Widdringtonia nodiflora species, namely:

  • Widdringtonia nodiflora var. dracomontana
  • Widdringtonia nodiflora var. nodiflora
  • Widdringtonia nodiflora var whytei


Characteristics of Mountain Cypress Leaf

Widdringtonia nodiflora Leaf

The young needle-like leaves are green, about 2cm long, and arranged in spirals on the branches. The older leaves are scale-like, dark green in color, and only 2 mm long.


Characteristics of Mountain Cypress Fruit

Widdringtonia nodiflora Fruit

The male cones are at the ends of the branches and are 2-4 mm long. The female cones are round 1.5-2 cm thick and dark brown when ripe.

Each cone consists of four woody conical scales with a warty surface. The seeds are dark brown to black and have striking red wings.


Characteristics of Mountain Cypress Tree

Widdringtonia nodiflora Tree

Mountain cypress grows as an evergreen tree that can reach a height of 10 meters. The bark is brown to gray, finely cracked longitudinally, and peels off revealing reddish bark.



This tree can be propagated from seed, sown during the fall in well-drained sand. The seeds germinate relatively well, over a few weeks. Grows about 30 cm per year.

Young trees are very attractive and are often planted as ornamental trees. It also grows well in cold or wet climates and is frost tolerant.


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