The Meaning Behind Cypress Trees

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Whether lifting your gaze to the sky under a canopy of towering trees or writing a scientific report, cypress trees are a universally compelling subject. Humans have always appreciated trees for both their usefulness and the deeper meanings they assign to them as symbols. When it comes to the latter, cypress tree symbolism is among the most ancient. With its impressive height and historical link to both immortality and mourning, the cypress stands between the worlds and invites humans to ponder the deeper meaning underlying their experience.

1 Define Cypress Trees

Cypress trees are evergreen conifers that belong to the genus Cupressus. There are 12 distinct species of cypress and a few so-called “false” cypress, which resemble cypress trees and belong to the same scientific family but aren't from the same genus. Most true cypress tower at around 80 feet tall and naturally grow in a conical or pyramid-like shape. They possess smooth bark that peels from the tree in thin strips and scaly, aromatic foliage that stays green all year. Cypress produce small, spherical cones for reproductive purposes. Cypress are common ornamental trees and demonstrate moderate usefulness as a timber product.

2 Cypress Tree Symbolism

Trees are some of the most potent symbols in the natural world. When it comes to cypress trees in particular, their height and distinct pyramid-like shape seem to point to the sky, making them lofty symbols of concepts associated with the heavens, such as immortality and hope. Cypress tree symbolism also travels a darker path as the tree is one of the oldest symbols of mourning. In fact, ancient Greeks and Romans referred to the cypress as the “mournful tree” for this reason. Adherents of Christianity and Islam historically planted cypress near burial sites and cemeteries for protection against evil spirits. The cypress tree is also sacred to some practitioners of Christianity who believe the cypress was the source of wood for the crucifixion.

When it comes to sacred symbols, it's difficult to find one as universal as the cypress tree and its associated cypress meaning and symbology. As a potent reminder of life and death, the cypress tree stands between the worlds, literally and figuratively pointing toward immortality and hope as a powerful response to human mourning.

Melissa Mayer is an eclectic writer with a teaching background. She has written a non-fiction YA book intended for use by schools and libraries (Coping with Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape) and is currently writing two others on topics related to mental health. Prior to freelancing, Melissa worked as a public school teacher and earned teaching license endorsements in early childhood (ECE), elementary (ELE), biology and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). She also served as her campus testing administrator and GT/TAG representative. Her writing clips include Thermo Scientific, SomaLogic, Mental Floss, Healthline, the Society for Neuroscience, Bitch Media, ParentMap, Hip Mama and Geez.