Port Orford Cedar
Port Orford Cedar, widely known for its quality of wood and horticultural uses, is a conifer native to northwest California and southwest Oregon. It is found at an elevation of 4,900 ft (1,500 m) in the valleys of Klamath River.
It has feathery, bluish-green foliage with the pollen cones above and the young seed cones appearing below. Its scale-like leaves have white marks below, and they are found on flattened young twigs. Lawson Cypress, as it is commonly called in horticulture, has a scaly and fibrous bark that is reddish-brown in color.
|Scientific Name||Chamaecyparis lawsoniana|
|Other Names||Pacific White Cedar, Pacific White Cypress, Port Orford Cypress, Oregon Cypress, Ginger Pine, False Cypress|
|Similar to||Extinct conifer species Chamaecyparis eureka, as revealed from its fossil foliage found on the Canadian Axel Heiberg Island|
|Size||Large trees; when matured, they may attain a height of over 197 ft (60m); their trunk diameter is 4-7 ft (1.2-2m), crown spread of about 5m|
|Leaves||3-5mm long, arranged in crossed or intersected pairs; dead leaves are shed collectively in sprays|
|Cones||Globular form; have a diameter of 7-14mm with 6-10 scales; the young female cones are green while the mature ones are brown; the male cones are smaller than the female cones and have a red color|
|Shape at Maturity||Acute or acuminate at the apex|
|Distribution/Range||Coastal areas of northern California and southern Oregon; southern Coos County, northern Curry County in Oregon; Klamath, Illinois, Trinity, Sacramento, and Rogue River drainages; also in the Siskiyou and Mount Shasta region|
|Lifespan||Long-lived; can survive over 350 years in the forest|
|Growth Rate||Moderate and consistent; annual height growth is 1.15 ft (0.35 m)|
|Growing Conditions||Humidity: High humidity at night, though some places in the valley are dry during the day; the coastal areas remain foggy
Winter Conditions: Cold and wet winters; tolerant to a temperature of -15°C and a snowpack of 3-7 ft
Summer Conditions: Warm and dry
Rain: Moderate to high annual precipitation, typically 39-89 inches
Sunlight: Full sunlight as well as partial shade
Soil Requirements: Well-drained, moist soils; grows on sand dunes, the edges of intermittent streams, bogs, productive soils derived from diorite and sedimentary rocks, as also on drier soil derived from ultramafic rocks
|Diseases||Phytophthora lateralis, an oomycete pathogen causes a root rot that may kill the tree; damage is also caused by drought, wind, and snow; it is sensitive to air pollutants including high levels of nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide|
|Flowering/Fruiting||Development of reproductive organs starts during spring-summer; formation of bladderless pollen is in late winter, and the pollen cones are shed in mid-March; fertilization takes place in April or May, and the seeds mature during September-October|
|Seed production starts||At 5-20 years of age|
|Seed bearing frequency||Seeds produced every year, but heavy production of seeds takes place every 4-5 years|
|Dispersal of Seeds||About 90% of the seeds are dispersed during Sep-May|
|Germination||Mid to late June|
|Wildlife Value||Deer, elk, and some domestic animals graze on the leaves and twigs of Port Orford Cedar; Douglas squirrels eat the seeds and cones; rabbits and mountain beavers feed on the foliage of young trees while the porcupines and woodrats love eating the bark|
|Cultivars||Hundreds of cultivars have been used in horticulture including Ellwoodii, Aurea Densa, Lanei Aurea, Wisselii, Chilworth Silver, Fletcheri, Little Spire, Gimbornii, Ellwood’s Gold, Kilmacurragh, Minima glauca, Stardust, and Pemberry Blue|
|Uses||Originally used as lumber for constructing houses, building ships, manufacture of furniture, and timbers for mine excavations; now commonly used for making boxes, toys, yardsticks, shelves, tables, cabinets, moldings, arrow shafts, soundboards on guitars, decking, lawn furniture, doors, handles, and boats; the logs are also exported to Japan for their similarity with Hinoki wood used in constructing temples and traditional houses|
|IUCN Conservation Status||Near Threatened|
- After its discovery by the natives of Port Orford, this species of cedar trees was first cultivated in 1854 by the collectors at the Scottish nursery Lawson & Son. This inspired botanist Andrew Murray to name these trees as Lawson Cypress.
- The foliage of Port Orford cedar has a distinctive pungent smell.