The Queen of Cupressus

Her majesty untold

A specimen of wonder

Vast canopy, age old

To stand in her shelter

To sit in her shade

Is to feel a serenity

Of nature’s miracle made

Who has not witnessed


Has not known

Her grandness of grace

Gratefully grown








As with many of the grandest trees, she is unassuming from a distance, easy to pass by for those that don’t see.  Making their way down Pescadero Creek Road to the quintessential Loma Mar Cafe and Market, countless pickup truck drivers and motorcyclists roar right on past her, without the slightest awareness that they have crossed the presence of an absolute marvel, a true behemoth of her kind.  This is no ordinary tree.



          I have walked the Earth, traveled near and far, flown a continent away, journeyed by sea and by seed to remote corners of the terrestrial realm in search of her majesty, as humble scribe of the global story of my dear Old Hespero.  But only here, in this quiet pocket of Pescadero, astride a lonely country road and miles from any meaningful urban populace or cultural center, here she stands rooted.  The giant, the champion of them all, the Cupressacean queen stands silent above me.  In her glorious shade I write these words.



This specimen is the world champion Monterey cypress, the single largest individual Hesperocyparis macrocarpa documented on the planet.  At a measured 588-inch circumference, and growing, this organism is more than fifteen feet in diameter, and truly exists as a world unto herself.  I have witnessed many cypresses, and some special trees are dearer in my heart, but none compare to her colossal enormity.

While certainly great genetics have much to do with the extreme scale of this veteran tree, her proximity to abundant water and access to rich soil in the floodplain of Pescadero Creek define ideal growing conditions for our world champion.  She is a treasure, and well worth a visit.  Driving south from Cypress Lawn Arboretum to witness her will be a recurring pilgrimage, indeed, for myself in the years to come.




For both better and worse, there is a long legacy of human intervention in the life of our Pescaderan champion.  Of course, the roadway itself is a man-made delineation of major consequence for the root system growing in this direction, on the southern face of Pescadera.  Undoubtedly, surface roots are snaking just beneath the asphalt all the way to the opposite side of Pescadero Creek Road and beyond, as cypress roots are known to grow more than three times beyond the distance of the drip line, or edge of the tree canopy, from the trunk center.

Power lines trace the very same route of the roadway, which has also played a role in the human management of our gargantuan tree.  Utility pruning has severely impacted the resulting growth patterns of the branch systems extending out over Pescadero Creek Road.  Sitting in the interior canopy of the tree, it is clear to observe the unnatural growth response of the limbs oriented in the direction of the utility lines, with extensive woundwood formation at the site of heading cuts. New green has oriented to grow with phototropism, or straight up to the sunlight in the sky above.







Throughout the canopy overhead, a man-made web of metal interlaces everywhere.  This extensive cabling and through-bolting structural support system is more extreme than any cypress in my known arboricultural memory. The tree has more metal embedded into it than perhaps any tree I’ve ever seen.

This form of tree surgery, while effective in a breadth of examples across arboriculture, may be carried to a bit of an extreme in the case of Pescadera.

The metal support web, however, is protecting the tree from a full-on collapse.  She has a cavernous opening into her heartwood of the main tree stem, a vast wound that would likely threaten to fully fail and split the trunk clean in half, were it not for the many bolts threaded across the chasm, and the stitching of steel cables higher up in the crown above, connecting branch systems 50 feet and more apart.  While free-climbing her, the metal is like an unusual set of monkey bars, aiding my curious exploration of this phenomenally large individual tree.









Aside from the noticeable human presence in proximity to Pescadera, there is also a great richness of diverse fauna, animal life, in her realm.  Evidence I have encountered on my visits thus far include a digested pellet of an owl, a marching line of ants patiently tracing up her trunk, even the iconic banana slug I found slowly wandering across the surface of her bark.  Inside and out, high and low, from her farthest reaches where the hawk may perch to the smallest cavity for a mouse to burrow into on a rainy evening, this tree is a home to much, much life.






          As Clinton Scollard wrote in 1925, inspired by the ancient native hinterland of the Monterey cypress on the central coast of the Golden State, “Who has not trod on Lobos has not known // The face of wonder, intimately shown.”  This sacred sentiment holds true some miles away from the venerable Point Lobos, in the company of my champion, in the presence of her towering truth.

The intimate face of wonder is ever present when you go inward to be a part of the life system all around and thriving in tandem with our champion, as with so many veteran trees.  There is a vast and bizarre assortment of flora living upon the tree, as benign epiphytes that also call her home.  We may witness wonder in nature when we slow down, open up our senses, observe both the finest details and the grand poetic sweeps – wonder may be cultivated from within, in the graceful presence of Pescadera.



Beyond her physical body, this tree bears an aura that escapes worded expression – a grandness that can only be described as spiritual.  For me, to simply know that this organism is possible in the world brings a glimmering moment of serenity.  To be aware of the potential of Pescadera is to feel a kindling spirit, of hope in the utmost that life can be.  May her children be just as grand.





I found a sincere inspiration sitting in her living lee, a calling to compose the following adaptation, a sylvan sister poem of the original Serenity Prayer:


Dear Pescadera

Grant me the kinship
To know
Diverse and loving community

Grant me the courage
To share
All truths my heart does hold

Grant me, with grace
Your rooting wisdom

To grow my spirit
Branching out each day