Cupressus atlantica is medium-sized tree to 35 m high. Conical form with straight trunk. Bark grey-brown, longitudinally fissured, lacking decortication. Branches set at large angles, upward curving. Branchlets of 1st and 2nd order distichous. First order shoots are slightly flattened in section, very fine (diam 0.5 mm). General aspect of foliage fine-grained, slightly glaucous, especially on young tree. Foliage cupressoid scales, opposite, decussate, imbricate, appressed, acuminate, strongly keeled, 1 mm long, with conspicuous, active resin gland producing a white resin spot on each leaf. Seedlings have two apiculate cotyledons and glaucous apiculate leaves.
This species is distinct from the allied Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean Cypress) in its much bluer foliage with a white resin spot on each leaf, the smaller shoots often being flattened in a single plane. It also has smaller, globose cones, only 1.5-2.5 cm long.
Cupressus atlantica is drought-resistant, frost-resistant and tolerates a variety of soils. The species is a rare coniferous tree endemic to the valley of the Oued n'Fiss river in the High Atlas Mountains south of Marrakech in western Morocco. The trees grow at 1100-2000 m elevation in a Mediterranean climate with rainfall of 350-700 mm/year. The cypresses are presumably the remnants of a forest that once flourished in a wetter climate.
It can produce long, high-grade sawlogs and has an attractive aromatic wood. It is very durable.
Written by Amram Eshel