Tree 16–18m tall, monoecious; trunk d.b.h. 2–3m. Bark thick, deeply fissured, exfoliating in longitudinal strips. Branches spreading or ascending, forming a conical or pyramidal tree
Spreading or drooping to pendulous. Leaves, scale-like (all equal in size), arranged in opposite pairs at right angles to those above or below, overlapping, gradually tapering, with glands, stomata few and scattered on margins near leaf base; shiny greyish-green or glaucous green.
Male pollen-cones on branches close to female cones, solitary, terminal, ovoid, 4–6 x 2–3mm, yellowish-brown when mature. Female seed-cones solitary on lateral branches, terminal on short leafy branchlets, ovoid-oblong, 15–27 x 13–21mm, light brown when mature; bract-scale complexes 10–12 in opposite pairs at right angles to those above or below. Seeds 6–8mm, closely packed, ovoid-globose, more or less angular, flattened, dark brown, wings 2 on opposite sides, 1–2mm wide.
The differences between C. dupreziana var dupreziana and C. dupreziana var. atlantica are that the former taxon has ovoid-oblong seed cones with ca 12 bract-scale complexes and the seeds are not angular.
This variety has previously been described as a separate species – C. atlantica (Gaussen, 1950) but both Farjon (2005) and Silba (1998) consider it to be morphologically very close to C. dupreziana. Likewise, from both the morphological and phytochemical studies (Griffiths,1998) it is thought that Cupressus atlantica is a subspecies of C. dupreziana (and very separate from C. sempervirens). Recent research (Rushforth, et al, 2003; Sekiewicz et al. 2016) suggests that C. atlantica should be considered as a distinct species from C. sempervirens and C. dupreziana. However more molecular work is required to confirm its true taxonomic status.
Historically, the wood was utilized for making joists and beams in order to build houses and in the building of large gates for the entrances of old town walls (Bellefontaine, 1979; Achhal, 1986). The larger branches of the trees were utilized to make chairs and tables and other furniture and the smaller branches were collected during the summer and stored for winter feed for the local Berber herds of goats and donkeys. Today substantial amounts of seeds are collected annually for commercial horticulture