Alaska cedar is an attractive narrow tree that
grows to 160 feet (50 meters). It is easily recognized by its drooping
Leaves: Alaska cedar
leaves are scaled
pointed tips that can be prickly. The scales have no
white pattern below. Unlike other native cedars, Alaska cedar has
The small round
cones are distinctive for conifers of the Cascades, although they are
to those of Port Orford cedar,
which grows along the south coast of Oregon.
similar to western red cedar, but tends to
be more gray, and the
stringy strips are wider and
often detached, giving it a scruffy look.
Where it grows:
Alaska cedar grows in
the upper elevations of the
Cascades and Olympic Mountains. Of course, you can find it throughout Southeast
Alaska, where it grows down to sea level.
Alaska cedar is strong and resists rotting. The
color is light yellow and turns brighter yellow when wet. The wood has
waxy texture and a distinctive resinous smell. Although not widely used
locally, the Indians of Canada's west coast and Southeast Alaska made
canoe paddles, bows, and many other tools and implements from Alaska
cedar. Today it is used to make furniture and window frames. You can
find beautiful carvings of Alaska cedar in gift shops in Southeast
Alaska. Its weeping form makes it popular for ornamental
Names: Formerly Chamaecyparis nootkatensis. The
classification of this conifer has been the subject of much recent
discussion and indecision among botanists. Other proposed genus names
include Xanthocyparis, Cupressus and Hesperocyparis. The
species name, nootkatensis,
is derived from the name of the Nootka people of Vancouver Island.
common names: yellow cedar, Nootka cypress, yellow cypress, and Alaska cypress.
Note that Alaska cedar is not a true cedar. That is, its
genus is not Cedrus,
the genus of the true
cedars from the Middle East and Himalayas.
Some writers indicate this by writing
name as "Alaska-cedar."