Cupressus macrocarpa

Ephedra viridis

Pinus contorta var. murrayana

Pinus longaeva

Pinus monophylla

Pinus radiata

Pinus torreyana

Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoiadendron giganteum

Gymnosperms of Alta California


I made up this list in preparation for a field trip to visit gymnosperms in Alta California. I have also been gymnosperm-hunting in Baja California, but haven't compiled that list yet. As far as differences in taxonomic interpretation permit, this list incorporates all gymnosperm taxa found in The Jepson Manual.

A visit to see California's conifers is well worthwhile (its only other gymnosperms, several species of Ephedra, are of more arcane interest). The state is home to 58 gymnosperm species, including the largest (Sequoiadendron giganteum), tallest (Sequoia sempervirens) and oldest (Pinus longaeva) known trees. California is the center of diversity for Cupressus (10 taxa, mostly endemic except for a little sprawl into southern Oregon and northern Baja). It has one of the rarest firs (Abies bracteata) and spruces (Picea breweriana). There are also a remarkable 20 species of pines, including the largest (Pinus lambertiana) and two of the rarest (Pinus radiata and P. torreyana) species. The state is second only to New Caledonia in conifer endemism,having 17 endemic species. Several other species are found only in immediately adjacent parts of Oregon, Nevada or Baja California Norte, and there are also several endemic varieties of species having a larger distribution.


Besides The Jepson Manual and general floristic information such as is provided by Burns & Honkala, useful sources for information on California taxa include:
  • Arno & Gyer 1973 (Lovely woodcuts by Jane Gyer).
  • Muir 1894 (Chapter 8 is a superbly written piece on all of the big conifers of the Sierra Nevada).
  • 'The Conifers of California" by Ronald M. Lanner (1999), an exceptionally well-written and -illustrated work.
  • A forthcoming (late 2000?) book on Forest Giants of Western North America by Robert Van Pelt, which will have fine drawings of many individual very large trees (see Sequoia sempervirens for an example).

Species List

Abies amabilis Pacific silver fir
Abies bracteata Bristlecone fir
Abies grandis Grand fir
Abies lowiana California white fir
Abies magnifica California red fir
Calocedrus decurrens Incense-cedar
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Port Orford cedar
Chamaecyparis nootkatensis Alaska yellow-cedar
Cupressus arizonica var. nevadensis Piute cypress
Cupressus arizonica var. stephensonii Cuyamaca cypress
Cupressus bakeri Modoc cypress
Cupressus goveniana Gowen, Santa Cruz and pigmy cypresses
Cupressus guadalupensis var. forbesii Tecate cypress
Cupressus macnabiana MacNab cypress
Cupressus macrocarpa Monterey cypress
Cupressus sargentii Sargent cypress
Ephedra aspera _
Ephedra californica Desert tea
Ephedra fasciculata _
Ephedra funerea Death Valley ephedra
Ephedra nevadensis _
Ephedra trifurca_
Ephedra viridisGreen ephedra
Juniperus californica California juniper
Juniperus communis
(vars. jackii, montana & saxatilis)
Common juniper
Juniperus occidentalis Western and Sierra junipers
Juniperus osteosperma Utah juniper
Picea breweriana Weeping spruce
Picea engelmanniiEngelmann spruce
Picea sitchensis Sitka spruce
Pinus albicaulis Whitebark pine
Pinus attenuata Knobcone pine
Pinus balfouriana Foxtail pine
Pinus contorta Lodgepole pine
Pinus coulteri Coulter pine
Pinus edulis Common piñon
Pinus flexilis Limber pine
Pinus jeffreyi Jeffrey pine
Pinus juarezensis Sierra Juárez piñon
Pinus lambertiana Sugar pine
Pinus longaeva Great Basin bristlecone pine
Pinus monophylla Singleleaf piñon
Pinus monticola Western white pine
Pinus muricata Bishop pine
Pinus ponderosa Ponderosa pine
Pinus quadrifolia Parry piñon
Pinus radiata Monterey pine
Pinus sabiniana Digger pine
Pinus torreyana Torrey pine
Pinus washoensis Washoe pine
Pseudotsuga macrocarpaBigcone Douglas-fir
Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesiiCoast Douglas-fir
Sequoia sempervirensRedwood
Sequoiadendron giganteumBig tree
Taxus brevifoliaPacific yew
Thuja plicataWestern redcedar
Torreya californicaCalifornia nutmeg
Tsuga heterophyllaWestern hemlock
Tsuga mertensianaMountain hemlock

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This page is from the Gymnosperm Database
Edited by Christopher J. Earle
Last modified on 19-Jan-2000