Some 15-20 species of usually tall evergreen trees, occasionally shrubs. Bark red to brown, exfoliating in long strips or papery scales. Leaves scale-like, densely arranged, overlapping; juvenile leaves are needle-like. Male and female cones are found on separate shoots; male cones small, 6 x 2 mm, ovoid or cylindrical, female cones larger, round, maturing in 2 years to about 2-4 cm or more, woody. Seed cones open in the hot sun or after the death of the shoot. Native to central China, north Africa, and southwestern North America to Central America.
Cupressus: from Greek kuparissos, the name for Cupressus sempervirens (Italian Cypress).