With a single glance I can see about 3,000 Santa Cruz cypress trees.
My vantage point is a lofty sandstone outcrop in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, overlooking a potpourri forest of ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, manzanita, knobcone pine, live oak, madrone, redwood, and Santa Cruz cypress. I watch patches of coastal fog tear away from the solid blanket lower down and drift up-slope to battle the sun for the mood of the land.
I came here to the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve because I thought that of all the trees on the National Register of Big Trees' list of species with vacant thrones, the endangered Santa Cruz cypress was most in need of a king.
But other plants and several kinds of animals are equally noteworthy: endemic species of Santa Cruz cypress
, plus protected species such as coho salmon.
It's appearance this time--the first-ever for this tree--leaves the Santa Cruz cypress
as the Register's lone "championless" endangered tree.
When American Forests reported on the status of endangered trees and their champions in 1996, four trees were on the brink: roundleaf birch, Florida torreya, key-tree cactus, and Santa Cruz cypress
have been listed as endangered: roundleaf birch, Florida torreya, Key tree-cactus, and Santa Cruz cypress. Although few in number, the plight of these trees represents most of the causes of species decline: habitat loss or alteration, introduced diseases and pests, commercial exploitation and development, over-collecting, and a naturally small geographic range.
The tree most recently protected by the ESA is the Santa Cruz cypress, added in 1987.
The primary threats to the Santa Cruz cypress have been rural and agricultural development, logging, fire suppression, and genetic mixing with cultivated cypress trees.