Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (syn. Callitropsis nootkatensis, see below) Cupressaceae
Alaska Cedar, Nootka Cypress, Nootka Falsecypress, Yellow Cedar kam-e-SIP-a-ris noot-ka-TEN-sis
- Conifer (but not a true cedar), evergreen tree, 60-90 ft (18-27 m) tall, slender conical, with drooping
branches and flattened sprays. Leaves tightly appressed, dark bluish or grayish green, in 4 rows
of similar size (3-6 mm long), an unpleasant, mildewy odor when bruised. Cones globose (round or
spherical shape), 10 mm across, ripening in the second year.
- Sun or partial shade. Prefers well-drained, moist soil.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 4 Native range is along the coast of Alaska and British
Columbia, then in the Cascades of Washington and Oregon, just reaching northern California.
- Recently a new conifer was discovered in northen Vietnam, it was described scientifically in 2002 (Farjon
et al.). The tree was classified in a new genus in the family Cupressaceae as
Xanthocyparis vietnamensis (Golden Vietnamese Cypress), its closest relative appears to be the
Alaska Cedar. Apparently a good deal of evidence justifies placing both species in the same
genus, and hence Alaska Cedar was renamed as Xanthocyparis nootkatensis.
However, Little et al. (Amer. J. Bot. 91:1872), while confirming the above relationship with
further evidence, pointed out that an earlier nomenclatural combination in the genus Callitropsis
existed, as Callitropsis nootkatensis (D.Don) Oerst., published in 1864 but overlooked or ignored
by other subsequent authors. Thus Callitropsis is now the accepted genus name for both the
Alaska Cedar and the Golden Vietnamese Cypress. It may take some time for the new name to be
accepted in commercial horticultural and forestry.
- Leaves similar to Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), but the 4-rows of scale-leaves are of similar size, whereas in Red Cedar the 2 opposite pairs have a dissimilar appearance (not folded and folded). When branchlets of Alaska Cedar are stroked away from the tip, they feel prickly, those of Red Cedar do not. Leaves of Western Red Cedar have a pleasing odor when crushed, not the mildewy or raw potato of Alaska Cedar (Pojar and MacKinnon, 1994).
- Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (Alaska Cedar) is also often confused with Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Port Orford Cedar, Lawsons Falsecypress). Click here for a table of distinguishing characteristics.
- Several cultivars available, including:
- Aurea - foliage bright yellow, slow growing
- Variegata - white to creamy-white variegation
- Pendula - strongly weeping form with branchlets hanging vertical
- nootkatensis: after Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, where the tree was first described by Europeans.
- Oregon State Univ. campus: northside of LaSells Stewart Center.