Evergreen conifer, native to eastern Mediterranean region.
Also known as Mediterranean cypress, Tuscan cypress, pencil pine or graveyard cypress. They can grow to 35m tall, and are distinct for their thin ‘exclamation mark’ shape.
There are several Italian cypress varieties in Symonds Street Cemetery – mainly in the Jewish section.
These trees have long-standing spiritual associations. This may be from their shape, and their scented wood, which was used in the doors of St Peter’s basilica in Rome
They are symbols of mourning in many religions – Christian, Jewish, Muslim – and are a feature of cemeteries around the world. They are fire resistant.
In Mexico they’re called ‘drama tees’ – because they bend in even the slightest breeze.