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Cypress

Cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens) are evergreen, as expressed by the Latin name for the species, sempervirens.  Two features, their long life expectancy numbered in centuries, and their lasting verdancy, made for their selection from Antiquity onwards to shield the sleep of the dead in cemeteries. Coffins of warriors were, for this reason, made out of cypress wood. This same wood now serves for the manufacture of harpsichords in the Italian style. Cypresses are found nowadays endemic all around the Mediterranean, elsewhere as cultivars. Turkey and the Greek islands could well have been their origins, even though cypresses have been found throughout the northern hemisphere in temperate and semi-tropical zones. The Cupressus genus was already present in Italy in the Pliocene, Pleistocene and Holocene. Their narrow flame-like silhouettes put exclamation points on a landscape. In the language of the brochures from travel agencies, they are inseparable from Tuscan views, for which they serve as signatures. But they exist in other regions as well, such as the French Pays de Cocagne (Land of Plenty) near Toulouse and Albi. Cypresses typically signal a hilltop house. They may have started as such with Roman villas. They are devoid of leaves or needles. Instead, branches and twigs are covered in small, 2-4 mm-long, triangular, chlorophyll-bearing and light-harvesting scales. The tree is an anemophile, it uses the wind to disseminate the male pollen. The pollen is a potent allergen and thus the decorative value of the tree has a price. However, complaints of cypress-related allergies only started in 1945, a factoid which might be worth looking into.