Alaska-Cedar – Chamaecyparis Nootkatensis

Alaska-Cedar – Chamaecyparis Nootkatensis
Family Cupressaceae – Redwood, Cypress, Arborvitae.
Alaska-cedar is also known as Alaska yellow-cedar,
yellow-cedar, Alaska cypress, and Nootka cypress.

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These Alaska-cedars are undergoing testing at the Morton Arboretum's Godshalk Meadow
Alaska-cedar is also commonly called Alaska yellow-cedar, yellow-cedar, Alaska cypress, and Nootka cypress. An important timber species,  it is one of the slowest-growing conifers.

Alaska-cedar grows from northern California to Prince William Sound, AK Except for a few isolated stands, it is found within 160 km (100 miles) of the Pacific coast. Isolated stands in the Siskiyou Mountains, CA, near the Oregon border mark its southern limit. In Oregon and Washington, Alaska-cedar grows in the Cascade Range and Olympic Mountains; scattered populations are found in the Coast Ranges and in the Aldrich Mountains of central Oregon. In British Columbia and north to Wells Bay in Prince William Sound, AK, it grows in a narrow strip on the islands and coastal mainland.

Alaska-cedar is notable within the cypress family for its tolerance of cool and wet conditions. The climate of its natural range is cool and humid. Climatic conditions at elevations where Alaska-cedar grows in the Cascade Range of Washington are somewhat comparable to those at sea level in coastal Alaska.

Since at least 1880, Alaska-cedar has suffered advancing decline and mortality on more than 100 000 ha (247,000 acres) of bog and semi-bog land in southeast Alaska. Abiotic factors appear to be responsible, but the primary cause remains unknown. In southeast Alaska, brown bears (Ursa arctos) frequently cause basal scarring by biting and stripping bark. Scarring is most common on well drained sites. This wounding results in fungal attack, which in time reduces volume and value of butt logs.

Special Uses
Special attributes of Alaska-cedar wood include durability, freedom from splitting and checking, resistance to acid, smooth-wearing qualities, and excellent characteristics for milling. It is suitable for boatbuilding, utility poles, heavy flooring, framing, bridge and dock decking, marine piling, window boxes, stadium seats, water and chemical tanks, cooling towers, bedding for heavy machinery, furniture, patterns, molding, sash, doors, paneling, toys, musical instruments, and carving. The wood is highly regarded in Japan, and most high-quality logs are exported. –USDA Forest Service Silvics Manual

The various physical properties of the wood make it an attractive material for both general construction and boat building. Due to its slow growth it is hard and, like other cypress woods it is durable; it therefore offers good dimensional stability, and is resistant to weather, insects, and contact with soil. It works easily with hand or machine tools; it turns and carves quite well. It can be fastened with glues, screws, and nails. Nootka Cypress's texture, uniform color, and straight grain will take a fine finish. It resists splintering and wears smoothly over time. When fresh cut it has a somewhat unpleasant bitter scent, but when seasoned it has barely any discernable scent, hence its traditional use in ceremonial masks. Native American canoe paddles, dishes, and bows were made from the wood.

Due to its expense, Alaska-cedar is used mainly for finished carpentry. Typical uses include exterior siding, shingles, decking, exposed beams, glue-laminated beams, paneling, cabinetry, and millwork. In historic preservation it can be used as a substitute for Western Redcedar and Baldcypress, due to current difficulties in obtaining quality timber of those species due to environmental concern and past over-exploitation, although this applies equally to Nootka Cypress.

1. Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson, USDA Forest Service Sheet ST-475, Alaska-Cedar
2. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network
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