Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis - Yellow-cedar

Family: Cupressaceae (Cypress family)

"Yellow-cedar is a medium-sized evergreen, coniferous tree species found along the Pacific Coast in North America, where it ranges from California north to Alaska: disjunct inland populations are found in BC and Oregon (Michener 2010). Plants are often dwarfed at high elevations (Michener 2010). It is readily identifiable by its scale-like bluish-green leaves, and spreading and noticeably drooping branches which stand out from other adjacent conifer trees. Cones are round and resemble berries in the first year, but become woody as they age (BC Ministry of Forests and Range 2010). This is a common species in old-growth stands at low elevations in the central and northern coast of BC. Commonly associated species include western redcedar and western hemlock. Decline and die-off of mature yellow-cedar trees has been noted in Alaska and British Columbia. Read more about yellow cedar die-off and associated research."[E-flora]

"Chamaecyparis nootkatensis is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Mar to April, and the seeds ripen from Oct to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.It is noted for attracting wildlife.[PFAF]
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It cannot tolerate atmospheric pollution." [PFAF]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]

Habitat/Range: "Wet to mesic slopes and bogs in the lowland, montane and subalpine zones; common in and W of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, rare in SE BC; N to SE AK and S to N CA." [IFBC-E-flora] "...this species grows mainly in the subalpine areas of the Vancouver Island Salish territory..." [Turner&Bell]

Other Uses

Wood: "yellow cedar wood was used by the Coast Salish for making paddles. A recent use among the Cowichan is for making knitting needles (Lane, 1951)." [Turner&Bell]

"This plant was important in the precontact economy and was used in carvings, for paddles and other tools but one is warned against using it in association with food because of its distinctive odor."[Norton]

Bark: "The bark is well known among the Northwest Coast Indians as an excellent material for making soft warm clothing and blankets. It is prepared by soaking in seawater for several days, then beating over a plank to separate the soft fibers and make them flexible."[Turner&Bell]

"Succeeds in most soils and situations, but prefers a moist deep loamy soil and a sheltered position[1, 11]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Survives on dry alkaline soils[200]. Does not grow well on peat or shallow chalky soils[11]. Growth of trees is hardly affected by a lack of phosphate in the soil. Plants are moderately shade tolerant, especially when young[81, 200]. Plants are tolerant of atmospheric pollution according to one report[200], whilst another says that they do not do well in a polluted atmosphere[1]. Plants are hardy to about -35c, they also tolerate low summer temperatures[200]. A very polymorphic species, there are many named varieties[200]. This species establishes well and grows fairly quickly when young[11]. Trees can reach 20 metres tall in 35 years but growth slows as the trees get older[185]. It is cultivated as a timber tree in Europe[50]. Trees in the wild can live for 1,000 years or longer[226], one specimen is believed to be 3,500 years old[229]. This longevity is probably due to the presence of toxic chemical compounds from microscopic fungi concentrated in the heartwood[226]. The wood and foliage have an acrid odour[226]. The bruised foliage releases a smell of turpentine[245]. Favoured by many birds for roosting, high cover and especially for nesting, large specimens of this tree help to attract songbirds to the garden[200]. Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]."[PFAF]

"Seed - sow March/April in a seedbed outdoors[78]. The seed is best sown in pots in a frame[K]. Seed can take 18 months to germinate. One month warm then one month cold stratification has produced good results[113]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings in late summer or autumn in sandy soil in a cold frame[1, 11, 200]. Difficult, it may be best done in late winter to early spring[113]."[PFAF]



"Single-trunked tree, pyramidal in youth; monoecious. Stem: young shoots flat, in drooping or pendent clusters, in 1 plane. Leaf: opposite, 4-ranked, scale-like, overlapping, of 2 kinds (facials smaller, appressed, laterals with tips spreading above facials). Pollen cone: terminal. Seed cone: 5–14 mm, woody, ± spheric to widely cylindric, maturing 1st year, open at maturity; scales 8–12, peltate, abutting, shield- or wedge-shaped, projection generally present, <= 1 mm, pointed, base depressed from edge. Seed: (1)2–5(7) per scale, flat, wings 2, narrow; cotyledons 2.
5 species: western and eastern North America, eastern Asia. (Greek: dwarf or on-the-ground cypress) [Farjon 2005 Monograph Cupressaceae Sciadopitys. RBG, Kew]" [Jepson]

C. nootkatensis has been placed in many genera but will be left in Chamaecyparis for our use.[2]


"1 sp. (Greek: resembling Callitris) [Debreczy et al. 2009 Phytologia 91:140–159; Little 2006 Syst Bot 31:461–480] Callitropsis Oerst. probably will not be available for use in plant names after 2012, when Xanthocyparis or another genus name probably will be needed for Callitropsis nootkatensis; all other California taxa formerly in Callitropsis (and before that, in TJM (1993), in Cupressus) are here included in Hesperocyparis Bartel & R.A. Price." "Unabridged references: [Bartel et al. 2003 Biochem Syst Ecol 31:693–702]
Unabridged note: The genus name Xanthocyparis Farjon & Hiep has been proposed for conservation against Callitropsis Oerst. by a vote of the Nomenclature Committee for Vascular Plants (Brummitt 2007 Taxon 56: 1290–1291), and if the vote is ratified at the next Botanical Congress in Melbourne in 2012, either Xanthocyparis or another genus name would be needed for Callitropsis nootkatensis; all other California taxa formerly in Callitropsis (and before that, in TJM (1993), in Cupressus) have been transferred to the new genus Hesperocyparis Bartel & R.A. Price and it is in that genus that these taxa are to be treated in TJM2." [Jepson2]

3/3 confidence. Cupressus nootkatensis D.Don is an accepted name.
This name is the accepted name of a species in the genus Cupressus (family Cupressaceae). [ThePlantList]

Local Species;

  1. Chamaecyparis nootkatensis - Yellow-cedar [TSFTK][PCBC]


  1. [2] Personal Note
  2. Aphotoflora -, Accessed Nov 26, 2017
  3. [Duke]Duke Phytochemical Database, James A. Duke, Accessed Feb , 2014,
  4. [E-flora], Accessed Nov 26, 2017
  5. [Jepson]2013. Callitropsis, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Jan 15 2015
  6. [Jepson2]2013. Chamaecyparis, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Jan 15 2015
  7. [Montana] Montana Native Plants and Early peoples, Jeff Hart and Jacqueline Moore, Montana Historical Society Press, Helena, USA, 1976
  8. [Norton]Plant Use in Kaigani Haida Culture: Correction of an Ethnohistorical Oversight, HELEN H. NORTON, Economic Botany, 35(4), 1981
  9. [] - Material obtained from Plants For A Future Database,, Accessed Jan 16, 2015
  10. - W. John Hayden Professor of Biology University of Richmond Richmond, VA 23173 USA ,, Accessed Nov 26, 2017
  11. [ThePlantList]The Plant List → Gymnosperms → Cupressaceae → Cupressus → Cupressus nootkatensis, D.Don, Accessed Jan 15, 2015

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