Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cypress tree

The great painter Vincent Van Gogh painted cypresses just like the ones in the photograph below. His Cypresses was painted in 1889. I took the photograph of these two beautiful trees in Istanbul in the fall of 2013.

Cypress is a name used for many trees in the conifer (one that bears cones in Latin) family Cupressaceae. The word cypress is derived from Old French cipres, imported from the Latin cypressus which is the Latinisation of the Greek word kyparissos (κυπάρισσος). This word may also be the origin of the name of the Island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean.

Cupressus sempervirens is the kind of cypress tree that I am interested in. The species name sempervirens comes from the Latin for evergreen.

                                                                                        Photograph: Güldal Ebeoğlu

Also known as the Mediterranean cypress, Italian or Tuscan cypress or graveyard cypress, this cypress is native to the eastern Mediterranean region. It is a tall evergreen tree that grows to 35 m.

Turkish literature had two traditions for a long period of time which did not have much influence on one another until the 19th century. The written literature was heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic literature which lead to the development of the Ottoman Turkish. The mostly oral folk literature remained free of the influences of Persian and Arabic and was created using standard Turkish. Yet, amazingly, in both the written literature and the folk literature, the same specific similes came to be used to describe the beloved maiden. One of these descriptions was about the height of the loved one. In both literary traditions it was likened to a cypress; selvi boylu-‘of cypress height, tall like a cypress.’ The cypress in mind was Cupressus sempervirens.

                                                                                   Istanbul in October

The leaves of Cupressus sempervirens are branched and dark green in color. The seed cones are ovoid and approximately 25 mm long. Green at first, they mature after pollination in about two years. The male cones are only 3-5 mm long and they release pollen in winter.

Believed to be growing in the gardens of paradise, the cypress tree was one of the favored trees in the classical gardens of Iran and throughout the Islamic world. It was also frequently depicted in old Islamic miniatures.

Courtyard from the Hünernâme, 16th century

Cypress trees are very long-lived. Some trees are reported to be over 1,000 years old according to Wikipedia. The characteristics of the trees to not lose their leaves and to survive for a long time gave them almost a supernatural connotation. In Turkey they are planted in cemeteries to protect and watch over the dead.

Cypress trees stand guard for a peaceful rest for my grandfather, my father and my father-in-law.

1 comment:

  1. There are some cypresses on the UN grounds in Geneva. Or am I mixing them up with cedars? I think it's the cedars that have a very familiar sort of smell. Hot summers in Turkey...