1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Alaska Cedar, A Common Tree in the Coastal Pacific Northwest

Alaska Cedar, A Top 100 Common Tree in North America


Alaska cedar, also known as Alaska yellow-cedar, yellow-cedar, Alaska cypress, and Nootka cypress, is an important timber species of northwestern America. Alaska cedar is confined to the cool, humid climate of the Pacific Northwest and is one of the slowest growing conifers in the Northwest. Also called Nootka cypress, that name derives from its discovery on the lands of aboriginal peoples, the Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, who were formerly referred to as the Nootka. It also happens to be a parent tree of Leyland cypress.

Alaska Cedar, The Most Debated Name in the Cypress Family

The Alaska cedar has historically been considered a cypress by botanists but often called cedar. Botanists agreed that the tree is indeed a cypress but they could never stay with a particular genus. So the genus name-calling went from Cupressus, to Chamaecyparis (which I still use), to Xanthocyparis, to Callitropsis.

The Silviculture of Alaska Cedar

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. Growing seasons are short.

The Images of Alaska Cedar

A graceful, weeping, pyramidal evergreen, Nootka cypress or Alaska cedar can reach 60 to 90 feet in the wild but stays within a height of 35 feet and a spread of 20 feet in cultivation. The trunk remains straight and dominant throughout the life of the tree.

The Range of Alaska Cedar


Nootka Cypress is native to the west coast of North America, from Prince William Sound in Alaska, south to the Klamath Mountains in northernmost California. Alaska cedar is generally found within 100 miles of the Pacific coast.

The Alaska Cedar Landscape Fact Sheet

Alaska cedar makes a striking specimen, with a distinct, graceful, weeping habit. Even one plant will soften any landscape. Use it near water or around a patio or as a lawn specimen in residential or commercial landscapes. It reportedly does best with some shade from the afternoon sun, particularly in the southern part of its range. Trees in full sun look great in higher planting zones.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.