The mountain cypress or bergsapree in Afrikaans often does not quite achieve tree status, although specimens of about 7 m tall of this African speciality still exist. Its habitat is rocky places on mountain slopes, often at higher altitude. Growing on mountains from the Cape all along the south and east coasts of South Africa, the remaining sizable trees are these days only found in the Chimanimani district of Zimbabwe and further northwards. This picture was taken in Fernkloof near Hermanus.
The bark is reddish brown when young, turning grey as it ages. It is usually fissured and flaking. Young leaves are needle-like and spiralling. Older ones lose their light green colour, becoming darker and scale-like, usually pressed against the branchlets. The bigger spherical cones (like the ones in picture here) are the female ones, becoming up to about 2 cm in diameter, while the male ones are small and oval, rarely exceeding 4 mm in length, growing at branchlet tips. The female cones have four rough surfaced scales and some small protuberances on the outside. The seed cones usually ripen in autumn, although some cones may be found in different stages of development on the tree all the year round. The seeds are dark coloured, each with a noticeable wing attachment.
The fragrant wood contains aromatic oil. It was used to make furniture in olden days, but is not really available for that purpose in South Africa any longer. The idea of planting one in a big container to provide the annual Christmas tree merits support (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com).