Callitris pyramidalis

Swamp Cypress, Swan River Cypress, King George's Cypress

Family: Cupressaceae

Callitris pyramidalis, is a tall shrub or small tree reaching about 8 metres with a canopy spread of several metres.

It is endemic to Western Australia, growing more off less in the south-west region – close to the south and west coasts; from west of Esperance, through the region north of Albany, to as far north as Kalbarri National Park.

It is typically found in sandplain shrublands. 

Callitris is a genus of pines. Hence they do not bear flowers but rather cones (conifers); part of the group of plants called ‘gymnosperms’ (naked-seed).

Callitris spp. have mature scale leaves (sometiomes referred to as awl-shaped or awls in pines); produced in whorls of 3. The tip are often triangular and the mid-section keeled or raised. The base of leaves are usually overlapped by the tips of the next whorl of leaves below. Juvenile leaves are more needle-like and arranged in whorls of 4. In this species, leaves are to 12 mm long and green to dark green; keeled and pointed at the tips. Leaves link together to produce long sections of foliage. Juvenile leaves are to 8 mm long but rarely persist for long. 

Callitris spp. produce seed-bearing cones – the female part; and the male cones (or strobili) which produce the pollen. In this species, the male cones are produced at the terminals of the foliage (in large numbers), each about 5 mm long and only 2 mm wide, brown in colour, releasing dust-like pollen (At the right time, and on a windy day, trees can be observed releasing large amounts of ‘dust’). Females cones are very distinctive in this genus, consisting of a whorl of 6 to 8 woody valves which open in a circle, producing a star-like cluster. Female cones receive wind-blown pollen to produce seeds. In this species, woody cones are produced solitarily in the foliage, on short peduncles, but often clustered on larger branches, woody and to 15 mm wide, with 6 valves or scales, with conspicuous green ovate bracts at the base; persisting for a number of years. 

Seeds are released with a wing attached, sticky / resinous, yellow-brown and about 7 mm long.

In common with other Callitris the cones, of this species, are held on the plant for many years. They only open if a branch or the tree dies. Because of the number of cones large numbers of seeds are released in the event of damage or death of the plant. As an example: A solitary C. pyramidalis, on a Western Australian island, was killed by fire. Subsequently hundreds of seedlings germinated. Up to 150 seedlings were counted per square meter ten metres from the deceased plant.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

Callitris are excellent accent trees with their columnar form, especially when planted in small groves. 

In our cold climate garden specimens reach about four metres after five years in the ground. They tend to attain a greater height with more watering.

They can provide contrast to a garden and and could be incorporated into flower shrubs and trees to good effect. 

Plant on a well-drained soil, in full sun for best results. 


Propagate from seed.

Other information

The species was collected, from Perth, in 1841 by Johann Preiss and named Actinostrobus pyramidalis. In 2010 the species was renamed Callitris pyramidalis as it was found that Actinostrobus lie within the Callitris genus

The thumbnail image is a watercolour painting, of a stem, by Robert Fitzgerald in the 1870’s.

This species likely regenerates mostly from seed after fire. 

Callitris is a genus of about 19 species occurring in Australia and New Caledonia. Australia has about 17 species, occurring in all states. New South Wales currently has 11 species. 

Callitris – From the Ancient Greek – Callos (κάλλος) – meaning “beautiful” (which is changed to κάλλη to describe a noun) and –tris – Greek for “3” (τρία) – referring to the attractive manner in which the small leaves are arranged in whorls of 3. 

pyramidalis – Latin – “pyramidal” – referring to the typical shape of plants (or perhaps the closed cones which look very pyramidal as well.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

Florabase – Western Australian Herbarium                            https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/36600

The Gymnosperm Database – Callitris endlicheri profile page https://www.conifers.org/cu/Callitris_pyramidalis.php


By Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.