I'm looking at buying a house. There's a belt of trees on the south-west side, which is inside the property boundary but outside the fence.

The local council has a covenant on the property that says the trees are not to be removed ever but does permit periodic trimming, so its a glorified hedge.


What trees are these, and how could they impact my new home in the future? Do they drop leaves all year long and block up guttering?

  • The area is known for cold antarctic winds from the south and southwest so this line of trees is a good thing for wind reduction.
  • Latitude is around 43.6 south and an elevation of about 50 metres.
  • Its in the South Island of New Zealand, in Canterbury.
  • Trees are definitely evergreens not deciduous.
  • Snow is rare but not impossible. These trees will have survived at least three snowfalls in 2010 (and none since)
  • There appears to be a "dead" core visible in the aerial photo - Trees are definitely more than 9 years old and probably 15-30 years old.

enter image description here

2009 2009 photo showing a recent cut/prune

enter image description here 2009 growth

enter image description here 2012 growth

All imagery is from Google maps or streetview and their licence applies.

Branch tip, around 20 cm long piece Woody branch cross section

Update The local Council has them listed as Macrocarpa trees.


2 Answers 2


These seem to be a cultivar of Chamaecyparis or Cuprocyparis.

They are conifer trees used for hedges and sheltering , especially orchards and for noise protection(I see there’s a road there).

They will not affect your plot at all. Except for the shade they will provide. The soil around them will become ericaceous and if you plan to put any plants there, you will need to confirm that with a soil test.

The brown part is just poor trimming and/or natural shedding. looks quite bad but it’s no big deal and the tree should regenerate just fine.

You can’t stop nature dropping leaves or needles here and there. So some may fall in guttering but the tree’s habit means they shed needles throughout the year and also grow through the year with a stronger growth in spring. The drop of needles is barely noticeable.

  • Definitely Chamaecyparis.
    – user33232
    Jun 16, 2018 at 10:50
  • 1
    That pruning job is horrible. Jun 16, 2018 at 15:07
  • 1
    @WayfaringStranger quite possibly one of the worst I’ve seen!
    – user33232
    Jun 16, 2018 at 16:32
  • @WayfaringStranger yeah - looks like one of those truck/tractor mounted oversized lawnmower blades. The legal situation is weird - those trees are on the home properties not on the roadside, and the home owner cannot remove them says the council, but must pay for trimming them.
    – Criggie
    Jun 17, 2018 at 4:21
  • 2
    @Criggie A 3 foot stump is technically a trimmed tree, and in this case would be an aesthetic improvement. Jun 17, 2018 at 14:17

More info after a couple years of living with this Macrocarpa hedge.

  • Parched They literally suck the ground dry. Lawn grass won't grow under them, and even within 10 metres grass looks stunted. The leeward side of the hedge is a great place for stacking firewood to dry.
  • Roots are invasive and far ranging - digging in an above-grade garden box reveals roots from these trees. I hate to think what they're doing under the house foundation.
  • Cultivating the nuts is possible - we grew a couple of trees in pots in case one of them dies. You have to literally chill the nuts in a fridge or freezer for a while to fool the seed that winter has come and gone.
  • Pruning is a massive job, takes me two whole days to do one side, and there's no way to do the top which is 6+ metres in the air. Before C19, the council did organise to trim their side and the top, once.
    I use a home-branded 36V battery hedge pruner with two extension poles and its barely just long enough to reach almost the top. Before that I used a manually-actuated extending pole lopper which worked and was cheap, but very slow.
    Both tools hurt the neck over time, and the motorised one makes the arms shake for hours afterward.
    Working off a ladder is impractical - instead a box scaffolding frame would be much safer. On the far side I ended up standing on the roof of my old landrover to get the height and angle needed.
  • Overpruning The neighbour's hadn't cut theirs for a decade or so, thus when the far side was trimmed, some areas look dead. The trick is to take off just less than the depth of the green area of branches, and to prune at least three times a year. Otherwise the tree will have a dead graveyard look which is unappealing.
  • Wind Noise curiously, the wind whistles less once the trees are pruned flat. I expected a lack of branches to allow more wind through and would be even noisier, but the opposite was true.
  • Insurance was difficult. Every insurance provider wanted to sell us "farm insurance" when we called it a shelter belt or shelter hedge. The trick is to refer to it as a Hedge, and nothing more.
  • Disposal its just green waste and can go in any municipal green waste programme. The cuttings smell nice for a short while.
  • Birds Being tall and robust trees, birdlife likes to nest in them, and the local cats like to climb in them
  • 1
    Wind whistles when it has to squeeze through narrow cracks - try opening your window just a centimeter-wide crack on a windy day, it will sound like a ghost is bagpiping on the windowsill. So it makes sense that trimming the top flat reduces the whistling. The whistling came from the wind squeezing through the spaces between branches, whereas the main body of the hedge is dense enough that the wind mostly goes around it.
    – csk
    May 31, 2021 at 15:24

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