Monday, March 7, 2011

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis - Alaska Yellow Cedar

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis: Chamaecyparis Chamaecyparis from the Greek chamae, "dwarf, low-growing, or growing on the ground" and kyparissos, "cypress," meaning "dwarf or ground cypress;" nootkatensis of or from the area of Nootka Sound or Nootka Island in Alaska.

Synonyms: Cupressus nootkatensis, Callitropsis nootkatensis, Xanthocyparis nootkatensis. Also known as Nootka Cypress.

Growth rate slow to 80' tall, though often dwarfed at high elevations, and a 25' spread at the base, developing an open, dense, narrowly conical form.

Weeping, flat sprays of blue-green to yellowish foliage have scale-like leaves with sharp, spreading tips.

Cones are similar to C. lawsoniana with wide, flat scales opening to expose the center, but only have four to six scales. Small reddish or brown male flowers appear as swollen bulbs at leave tips, shedding pollen in spring. Tiny green female flowers form small, 1/4" long, round, deep cones with a whitish cast, ripening in fall.

Bark is thin, brown, becoming gray with age, irregularly ad finely broken by shallow seams, with wide, flat scaly ridges, frequent diagonal crossings, peeling in narrow, flat, vertical strips.

Native to the coastal mountains from southeast Alaska to southwestern Oregon, with a few small groves in California's Siskiyou Mountains making up the southern extent of its range. Alaska Yellow Cedars generally grow on north-facing slopes from 4,500 - 6,900' elevation and most often consist of populations of scattered shrubs of this cedar. Longevity estimated to be 200-275 years on average. Canada's oldest known tree is an Alaska Yellow Cedar with 1,636 annual rings. It is said to have perished on Vancouver Island in the early 1990s.

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