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What is an Alaskan Cedar?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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The Alaskan cedar is an evergreen tree that is classified in the Cupressaceae family. It is distributed throughout the northwestern region of the United States and Canada. The distinctive features of the Alaskan cedar include drooping branches and a pyramidal form. This type of tree is usually planted near foundations or borders. The Alaskan cedar has a moderate growth rate and doesn't have major issues with pests or diseases.

Scientifically, the Alaskan cedar is known as Chamaecyparis nootkatensis. This species is also called the nootka cypress or the yellow cypress. There are several cultivars, or varieties of the Alaskan cedar that differ by foliage color. These include glauca, which has a bluish color, and variegate which has streaks of cream in the foliage. A few cultivars differ by shape, including compacta, which has a round, dense form, and green arrow, which has an upright, narrow form.

The Alaskan cedar grows along the Pacific coast of North America. It populates the states of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. The tree also grows in the Canadian province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.

Generally, this tree grows 60 feet (18 m) in height and features foliage that is wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. The leaves are bluish-green or grayish-green and are attached to weeping branches. When the foliage is crushed, an unpleasant odor is released. The bark is thin and grayish-brown.

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The yellow flowers of this tree are replaced by small green cones. They usually hang from the tips of branches. It usually takes two years for the cones to mature.

This tree does well in humid climates that have moist but well-draining soil. Generally, fertile and acidic soil is ideal, but this tree is adaptable to less than perfect conditions. The recommended hardiness zones for this tree are 4-8. High winds are detrimental to this tree so it should be planted in an area that is sheltered. Also, this tree can thrive in full sunlight or partial shade.

Landscapers like to use the Alaskan cedar as a screen. It can be placed in bunches to form a hedge, or planted individually near windows. This tree is also perfect for corners of the house or as a container plant.

The Alaskan cedar is commonly mistaken for other species within the plant genus Chamaecyparis. A trait which distinguishes it from other species is the lack of white markings on the underside of its leaves. Observing this, along with drooping branches, one can correctly identify the species.

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