Cupressus sempervirens L.
In its scientific name, sempervirens means evergreen, while Cupressus derives from the name of the mythological character Cyparissus, whose grief turned him into a cypress tree. Ancient Cypriots worshiped the tree, so the island was named after it. In Palestine, the trees do not grow naturally in forests, but are introduced. There are two varieties, the horizontal and the pyramidal. Some believe that the tree’s cylindrical shape inspired ancient architects to build columns. Since ancient times, people have used the Mediterranean cypress as a symbol of grief and mourning. To this day, this tree is planted in many graveyards. Before Islam, the Persians considered Mediterranean cypress a holy tree because of its resemblance to a flame and their worship of fire.
Cypress blossoms are unisexual, but grow on the same tree, so the plant is classified as a monoecious plant. Its cones are spherical and consist of 8-14 pentagonal scales.The tree’s essential oil has numerous health benefits as a muscle relaxant, antiseptic antispasmodic and deodorising substance. In the past, the oil was inhaled to relieve respiratory disorders. Its hard, solid wood was used by the Phoenicians in construction and shipbuilding. The cypress tree is known to live for hundreds of years, and its wood is also very durable. Plato knew this well when he ordered that his laws be engraved on tablets made of its wood. In Iran, there is a Mediterranean cypress tree that is 4,000 years old. In Palestine, the tree is commonly planted ornamentally and as a wind breaker. However, it is not mentioned in Palestinian folklore, possibly because it is rarely found growing naturally in the country.
Source: A Garden Among the Hills: The Floral Heritage of Palestine. © The Palestinian Museum 2019