Northwest Conifers


New World Cedars

The cedars of North America are called "new world cedars" to distinguish them from the dissimilar, "true cedars" of the Himalayas and the Mediterranean region. Thus, some writers call our native cedars "false cedars." However, these trees are commonly referred to as just "cedars," even though our northwest cedars belong to four different genera, none being Cedrus, the genus of true cedars. All these new world cedars have similar looking flat, scale-like leaves, and somewhat similar stringy bark. And they all belong to the Cypress family (Cupressaceae).

Western Red CedarWestern Red Cedar
– Thuja plicata

Leaves: Flat, scaled, white butterflies below

Cones: 1/2" long, rose-shaped

Bark: Brown, stringy

Where: Wet areas below 4000 ft.


Incense CedarIncense Cedar
 – Calocedrus decurrens

Needles: Long, flat scales

Cones: 1" long, shaped like a duck's bill

Bark: Brown, deep furrows

Where: Dry areas of Cascades


Alaska CedarAlaska Cedar
 – Callitropsis nootkatensis

Needles: Flat, scaled, prickly

Cones: Round, 3/8"

Bark: Gray-brown, shreddy strips

Where: Above 3000 ft.


Port Orford CedarPort Orford Cedar
 – Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Leaves: Flat, scaled, white X's below

Cones: Round, woody, 3/8" diameter

Bark: Brown, thick, furrowed

Where: SW Oregon below 5000 ft.


© 2012 Ken Denniston