Cupressus dupreziana A.Camus

Represented by the two varieties C. dupreziana var. dupreziana (Algeria) and C. dupreziana var. atlantica (Morocco). Long-lived (2000 years) but their future is threatened by fire, seed collecting and climate change.



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, subglobose to 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, or more angular, flattened, dark brown, wings 2 on opposite sides, 1–2mm wide.


Native to western North Africa in Algeria and Morocco.


C. dupreziana var. dupreziana is limited to the southwest edge of the Tassili Plateau within the geographical regions of Maddak, Tassili-Hedjirit and Amiok. Here it has an altitudinal range of  between 1430 to 1830m with an extent of occurrence (EOO) of 1,000km² (Abdoun & Beddiaf, 2002). The area of occupancy is likely to be less than 500km² given the small population and limited habitat. Restricted to an area 120km in length and between 6 and 15km wide and contains 46 sites with 233 living trees. The population decline is estimated to be 8% over a period of 30 years (Abdoun & Beddiaf, 2002).


C. dupreziana var. atlantica is endemic to the Region of Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz and the Province of Marrakech in eight sites. The extent of occurrence is estimated to be 40km², based on data from recent herbarium specimens. Estimates of the area of occupancy indicates a reduction from c.55km² (Boudy, 1950) to only 14.58km² (Achhal, 1986) which over a 36 year period gives a reduction of ca 73% (Griffiths, 1998). The two subpopulations have a combined area of occupancy of less than 500km².

Habitat and Ecology

In Algeria it grows on the summits of mountains or in the bottoms of valleys and gorges, where precipitation is estimated to be 30mm per year (Dubief, 1963). In Morocco it occurs in a temperate semi-arid to dry Mediterranean climate with periods of drought and snow.  All stands occur on steep-sided mountain slopes in an altitudinal range of between 1,000 to 2,200m.

Human Uses

In Morocco, 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. In Algeria the wood was highly valued for construction and carpentry and today the main use is for fuel.

Conservation Status

Global status and rationale

Endangered A2acd;B2ab(iii)

Both varities have been assessed as Critically Endangered. In Algeria the assessment is based on the C criterion with a total known population of less than 250 individuals and a predicted 25% decline within the next generation (ca. 25 years). The extent of occurrence is estimated to be less than 1000km². The area of occupancy has not been calculated but is highly unlikely to be more than 250km², given the small size of the population and its limited habitat. In Morocco the assessment is based on the B criterion with a limited extent of occurrence (ca. 40km²), a single location and continuing decline. The actual area of occupancy is estimated to be 1,456ha² while the total population is estimated to be at least 6,500 trees. In addition there has been a recent decline in the area of occupancy of 73%. In both cases there is a continuing decline in the quality of habitat. On the basis of this information, the species is assessed as Endangered under the B2 criterion where the total area of occupancy is less than 500km², there are fewer than five locations and there is a continuing decline in at least the quality of habitat. It is also assessed as Endangered under the A2 criterion on the basis that the 73% decline in the area of occupancy of var. atlantica in Morocco and an unquantified decline in Algeria is the equivalent to at least a 70% reduction in the combined total population.

Global threats

The major threats which have contributed to the decline of this species are fire, grazing, seed collecting, firewood collection and tourism. Climate change is now also having a negative effect on the population. In Algeria this species is under serious from climate change, fire and the collection of firewood. In Morocco threats include seed collecting, grazing and climate change.

Conservation Actions

In Algeria the sub-population is afforded protection in the Tassili N'Ajjer National Park, which has been designated a World Heritage Site, but despite this protection the sub-population is in decline. Organizations such as the National Institute of Forest Research have been harvesting seed, cultivating them in nurseries and establishing plantations. In Morocco some conservation strategies have been implemented by the Direction des Eaux et Forêts including fencing off the sub-populations of Rikt and Achachi and at the former some replanting has been carried but due to lack of after care the survival rate has been low (Griffiths, 1998).

References and further reading

  1. Abdoun, F. (1999). La population de cyprès du Tassili en voie de disparition. Symbiose. 7: 23-29.
  2. Abdoun, F. (2002). Etude de la dynamique spatio-temporelle des populations de Cupressus dupreziana A. Camus au Tassili n’Ajjer, Algérie. Thèse Doc., Université d’Aix-Marseille III, 171 pp.
  3. Abdoun F. (2006). Analyse rétrospective des projets de protection et de réintroduction du cyprès du Tassili dans son aire naturelle et dans le monde, Journées Internationales sur la Désertification et le Développement Durable, Biskra.
  4. Abdoun, F. & M. Beddiaf (2002). Cupressus dupreziana A. Camus, répartition, dépérissement et régénération au Tassili n’Ajjer, Sahara Central. Comptes Rendus Biologie. 325: 617-627
  5. Abdoun, F., Gardner, M. & Griffiths, A. (2013). Cupressus dupreziana. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <>. Downloaded on 05 July 2013.
  6. Achhal, A. (1986.) Etude phytosociologique et dendrometrique des écosystèmes forestière du Bassin versant du N’Fiss (Haut Atlas central).  Ph.D. Université de droit d’economie et des Sciences d’Aix Marseille: France.
  7. Bechir, A., El Mousadik, A.  & Pichot, C. (2004). Allozyme diversity of natural and introduced cypress stands in Morocco: consequences for management of genetic resources. Annals of Forest Science. 61(7): 669-676.
  8. Bellefontaine, R. (1979). Vigeur de croissance du cyprès d’Atlas dans son aire naturelle et dans son aire d’introduction au Maroc.  Ann. Rech. Forest. 19: 235-273.
  9. Benhouhou, S., Boucheneb, N., Sahli, F. & Idrissa Yaou, A. (2005). Le cyprès du Tassili : caractérisation floristique et écologique = Floristic and ecological characterisation of the Tassili cypress. Sécheresse. 16(1) : 61-66.
  10. Balachowsky, A.S. (1955). Une relique rarissime du Sahara Central : le cyprès de Duprez.. La Nature. 3237: 20-24.
  11. Barry, J.P., Belin, B, Celles, J.C., Dubost, D., Faurel, L. & Hethener, P. (1970). Essai de monographie du Cupressus dupreziana A. Camus cyprès end´emique du Tassili des Ajjer (Sahara Central). Bull. Soc. Hist. Nat. Afrique Nord. 61(112):95–178.
  12. Boudy, P. (1950).  Economie forestière nord-africaine.  Monographie et traitment  des essences forestières. 2: 764-771.  Paris : Editions Larose.
  13. Camus, A. (1958). Sur un Cupressus relique de la Forét du Tassili. J. Agric. Trop. Bot. Appl. 5:766-7.
  14. Capot-Rey, R. (1954).  Une crue de l'O. Edjréou, Trav. Inst. Rech. Sahar. 11 :111-116.
  15. Dubief, J. (1963). Le climat du Sahara. Trav. Inst. Rech. Sahar, h.s. II:275
  16. Griffiths, A. J. K. (1998). Taxonomic and conservation status of Cupressus atlantica. Reading. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Reading.
  17. Lavauden, L. (1926). Sur la présence d’un cypr`es dans les montagnes du Tassili des Azdjers. Comptes. Rendus. Acad. Sci.182:541–543
  18. Leredde, C. (1957). Etude écologique et phytogéographique du Tassili n’Ajjer. Trav. Inst. Rech. Sahar. II:455
  19. Pichot, C., Fady, B., & Hochu, I. (2000). Lack of mother tree alleles in zymograms of Cupressus dupreziana A. Camus embryos. Ann. For. Sci. 57: 17–22
  20. Pichot, C., El Maátaoui, M., Raddi, S. & Raddi, P. (2001). Surrogate mother for endangered Cupressus. Nature. 412: 39.
  21. Rushforth, K., Adams, R. P., Zhong, M., X.-Giang Ma & Pandey, R. N. (2003). Variation among Cupressus species from the eastern hemisphere based on Random Amplified Polymorphic DNAs (RAPDs). Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 31:17–24
  22. Silba, J. (1998). A monograph of the genus Cupressus L. J. Int. Conifer Preserv. Soc. 5 (2): 1-98
  23. Sekiewicz, K., M. Sekiewicz, A. Romo, Y. Didukh, M. Fennane & A. Boratynski (2014). Chorological and conservation status of the endemic cypress, Cupressus atlantica Gaussen, in the High Atlas (Morocco). Dendrobiology 71:3-13.
  24. Sekiewicz, K., K. Boratynska, M.B. Dagher-kharrat, T. Ok, A. Boratynski (2016). Taxonomic differentiation of Cupressus sempervirens and C. atlantica based on morphometric evidence. Systematics and Biodiversity DOI:10.1080/14772000.2016.1171260.
  25. Stewart, P. (1969). Cupressus dupreziana, threatened conifer of the Sahara. Biol. Conserv. 2(1):10–12
  26. Stewart, P. J. (1986). Cupressus atlantica. In: FAO Forestry Department (compiler). Databook on endangered tree and shrub species and their provenances. Rome: FAO. 524 pp.
  27. Xenopoulos, S., Andreoli, C., Panconesi, A., Pinto Ganhao, J.  & Tuset, J. J. [date unkn.] Importance of Cypress, pp 1-14 in J. Ponchet (ed.), AGRIMED research programme. Progress in EEC research on cypress diseases. Results of the Agrimed project (1980-1988). Luxembourg: Commision of the
  28. Yani, A., Baradat, P. & Bernard-Dagan, C. (1990). II. Chemotaxonomy of Cupressus species, pp 29-38 in J. Ponchet (ed.), AGRIMED research programme. Progress in EEC research on cypress diseases. Results of the Agrimed project (1980-1988). Luxembourg: Commision of the European CommunitiesCommunities