What is Callitris?

Alex Paul

Callitris is a genus of tree that contains 15 different species. All the species in the Callitris genus are coniferous, and most live in Australia. There are several different names for the genus, but the most common is cypress-pine — despite the fact that none of the trees in the genus are actually pine trees. Typically, a Callitris species grows to a maximum of 80 feet (25 meters), although there are some that are much smaller or larger than this.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The trees contained within the Callitris genus are usually relatively small sized trees and some are large shrubs. The smallest examples of species within the genus are around 15 feet (5 meters) in height. Callitris trees are evergreen and the leaves have scales. During the early years of a tree's life, however, the leaves are often shaped more like needles.

There are two different parts to the genus. The first group only contains one species, known as C. macleayana, and isn't a typical species. All other species are contained within the other group, which has led to some experts to classify the first as a separate genus. The main difference between the two sections is that the first occurs in rainforests, where all the other species prefer to grow in dry locations.

Callitris wood is usually soft and relatively light. One feature of the wood is that it is resistant to termites. Due to the aesthetically pleasing appearance of the wood, it is commonly used in furniture across the world as well as for fencing. The wood is also aromatic and resists decay more than other types.

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In some cases, cypress-pine trees may be used as ornamental plants. This is rare, however, for several reasons, including the fact that they are highly susceptible to bush fires which can make them a risky plant to have in a garden. There are some situations where the trees are used though.

Cones of the Callitris trees are relatively small compared to other species. For example, the male cones typically only grow to around 0.118 inches (3 mm) in length and can be found at the end of branches. In contrast to many other types of tree, the species keeps the cones shut for years at a time. The cones only open when they are subjected to intense heat from a bush fire, as this allows the seeds to grow on the recently cleared ground that follows a fire.

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