Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Monterey cypress with an unusually long horizontal branch

with 22 comments


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At Point Lobos, California, on November 3rd, I noticed that one of the Monterey cypresses, Cupressus macrocarpa, had an extraordinarily long horizontal branch.

If you’ve ever seen one branch of a tree so much longer than all the others, raise your hand. Of course you’ll have to tell us if you raised your hand.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2016 at 5:01 AM

22 Responses

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  1. What a beautiful canopy and landscape, Steve! Did you use a panorama method and post process, or was there a wide frame setting in your camera? Curious.

    Of course you already know that the Bald Cypress lines our drive. After lovingly calling one such horizontal branch ‘The Car Wash,’ I finally lobbed it off. It reached an additional 8 feet beyond the canopy, nearly the width of the driveway.

    I’ll put my hand down now.


    November 27, 2016 at 5:54 AM

    • Thanks for holding your hand up for so long, Shannon. I hope you held your arm out horizontally in a show of solidarity with this branch and your “Car Wash” branch (as you called it and then culled it).

      I took the picture with my 24–105mm lens zoomed out to the widest setting. The camera sensor’s 3:2 horizontal:vertical ratio meant that I ended up including space at the top of the image that took away from the horizontality that I wanted to emphasize, so I cropped off that unwanted part of the image. The sky was so much brighter than the shadowed branches that when I processed the photograph I had to bring down the highlights and bring up the shadows considerably to get an acceptable image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2016 at 6:56 AM

  2. What an amazing branch. I thought immediately of the Ghost of Christmas Future in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” pointing with its long arm to the future and saying, “…but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” Perhaps the tree has a similar message for those insensitive to nature.


    November 27, 2016 at 7:06 AM

    • As is your wont, you’ve made quite an original comparison, one I expect no one else would come up with. Dickens was a popular writer, yet the language he used still often had a formality that I find quite welcome in our era of extreme informality. And Dickens’s characters don’t say like every tenth word.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2016 at 7:23 AM

  3. Aren’t these cool trees? I have always loved them. I don’t remember all that brush being beneath them, though. I wonder what that is. It doesn’t look like it is faring well in the drought.


    November 27, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    • Actually the gray at the bottom was bushes that had gone to seed and turned fluffy. One kind that I saw in good numbers there was a DYC that I’ve yet to identify (a few fading yellow flower heads remained). Another kind of plant that was common there appeared to be a species of Baccharis. I assume both kinds had a healthy flowering season but I have no way of knowing. Unfortunately the guy on duty at the information kiosk knew little about the native plants there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2016 at 10:37 AM

      • I’m always amazed at how little the people who man the nature desks know about their site. What do they imagine they are standing there for???


        November 28, 2016 at 9:35 AM

        • The guy was there to answer general questions, give directions, and also sell guide books, post cards, etc. He did have a looseleaf binder with pictures of local wildflowers, but since the plants in question had passed the flowering stage, the pictures in the binder didn’t help me.

          On several occasions the person on duty at a place told me there was someone who knew a lot about the plants but that the expert wasn’t there that day. Bad timing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 28, 2016 at 11:27 AM

  4. This is one of my favorite trees in New Zealand, and their common name there is macrocarpa. They can be so sculptural, you’re right, but I don’t think I’ve seen another with a branch as long as this one. Someone should name a saloon after it, hey, Chester?


    November 27, 2016 at 4:15 PM

    • Yikes: Monterey cypresses in New Zealand? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given how many other alien species I saw there, especially pines.

      An article about Point Lobos said that the Monterey cypresses there make up the last naturally occurring stand of that species, with the other cypresses around the state having come from planted trees. They’re sculptural indeed, and we saw some that the wind (presumably) had slanted or twisted.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2016 at 4:48 PM

      • As for “presumably,” you can believe it. I’ve seen many a stand of wind-sculpted macrocarpas, and some of them were nothing short of spectacular. I was going to attach an example to this reply, but can’t seem to figure out how to get it in here. I’ll email it to you instead. In fact, maybe I should do a post on them…


        November 28, 2016 at 9:00 AM

  5. Of course I studied the image! Unlike Linda, I pictured a string of cartoon birds sitting from one end to the other! Funny how an image or a word can trigger diverse thoughts!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    November 28, 2016 at 4:59 PM

    • First a spirit from A Christmas Carol pointing its long arm and now a bunch of cartoon birds jammed together on that branch. You two should do a children’s book together.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2016 at 8:21 PM

  6. I recall a tree like that near Carmel.


    November 30, 2016 at 5:39 AM

    • I wonder if such a one-of-a-kind branch on a tree of this species is more common than I expected.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2016 at 6:20 AM

  7. That is a super long branch .. Beautiful pic Steve. We have cypress here, but Auckland is too humid for them.


    December 4, 2016 at 11:35 AM

    • I don’t recall ever seeing a branch as eccentric as this one. Monterey cypresses are known for growing in bent and twisted formations, yet this branch was so straight.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2016 at 2:22 PM

  8. […] you remember the Monterey cypress with the unusually long branch I saw at Point Lobos, California, on November 3rd? A few minutes later I came to a grove of those […]

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