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Incense Ceder Calocedrus decurrens

Previously known as:

  • Libocedrus decurrens
  • Thuja decurrens
Phonetic Spelling
kal-oh-SEE-druss DEK-ur-enz
Description

Intense Cedar is a native to western North America.  In the US, it can be found as far north as central Oregon, continues south through most of California and east into Nevada and Utah along wooded mountain slopes and canyons.  In addition to its aromatic and showy foliage, this conifer sports interesting exfoliating gray-brown bark and showy male and female cones.  Its form is broadly conical with spreading branches. The branchlets are flattened and terminate in dense, fan-like sprays.  The dark green leaves emit an aromatic odor when crushed.  The small male cones are yellow.  The female cones are cylindrical and are composed of 6 paired, flattened, and pointed scales.  In early fall, as the female cones open, they resemble a ducks-bill.  They ripen in late summer at lower elevations and a month or so later when situated at higher elevations.

It will adapt to a variety of soils, however, it prefers moist, well-drained, fertile soil.  It typically does not develop winter burn.  When deep, infrequent watering is provided to a young tree, it can develop drought tolerance as the tree ages.

Wildfires can kill stands of young trees, while mature trees are protected from fire by their thick bark.

Its wide spreading lateral roots and the abundance of downward roots (taproots) form a strong structure for the tree while making it a poor choice for transplanting.  Seedlings grow slowly, but also produce well-developed root systems, extending up to 12" in depth in their first year.  The seedling survival rate is inhibited by deer browsing and low sunlight.  

Its soft wood, which is resistant to splintering, is a major wood used in the manufacture of pencils.  The strong aroma makes it a great choice for cedar chests and closets.  

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Issues may include cut worms, heart rot and rust.  Although mature trees are drought tolerant, drought is a major cause in the demise of seedlings.  It is a difficult tree to transplant.

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aureo-variegata'
    Yellow variegation.
  • 'Berrima Gold'
    Yellow-green foliage, turning orange-gold in winter.
  • 'Columnaris'
    Upright, columnar cultivar.
  • 'Maupin Glow'
    Yellow and green foliage.
'Aureo-variegata', 'Berrima Gold', 'Columnaris', 'Maupin Glow'
Tags:
#evergreen#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#native tree#moths#conifer#winter interest#needled evergreen#long lifespan#wind dispersed seeds#cold tolerant#dendrology#humidity tolerant#butterfly friendly#host plant#shearing#dry soils intolerant#native#butterflies#butterfly garden#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aureo-variegata'
    Yellow variegation.
  • 'Berrima Gold'
    Yellow-green foliage, turning orange-gold in winter.
  • 'Columnaris'
    Upright, columnar cultivar.
  • 'Maupin Glow'
    Yellow and green foliage.
'Aureo-variegata', 'Berrima Gold', 'Columnaris', 'Maupin Glow'
Tags:
#evergreen#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#native tree#moths#conifer#winter interest#needled evergreen#long lifespan#wind dispersed seeds#cold tolerant#dendrology#humidity tolerant#butterfly friendly#host plant#shearing#dry soils intolerant#native#butterflies#butterfly garden#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Calocedrus
    Species:
    decurrens
    Family:
    Cupressaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Landscape plant.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Western U.S.A., Mexico
    Distribution:
    CA, NV, OR, UT
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It serves as a host plant for many species of butterflies and moths.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Buffer
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Screening
    Textural
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    heat and drought
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 70 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Pyramidal
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Cones containing up to 4 seeds each are reddish-brown in the fall. They remain until spring.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Male and female cones form on this tree.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Needles
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Shiny, dark green foliage in flattened, vertical sprays holds its color in winter.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Green
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Scaly
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Irregular
    Bark Description:
    The exfoliating, scaly bark provides winter interest.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Barrier
    Border
    Hedge
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Heat