Tree of the Month

Nootka Cypress

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The Ohio Chapter ISA continued efforts is to advance responsible tree care practices through research, technology, and education while promoting the benefits of trees. This month Tree-Of-The-Month is commonly known as the Nootka Falsecypress or the Alaska Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)

This less than commonly seen or known small evergreen tree to the Ohio landscape that is called the Nootka Falsecypress, or the Alaska Cedar is a beautiful tree that should be sited in a partial sun or partial shade, shade tolerant, full sun. The Nootka Falsecypress is pronounced (kam-eh-SIP-uh-riss noot-kuh-TEN-sisor) and this tree species belongs to the Cypress family of plants commonly known as Cupressaceae. The Nootka Falsecypress or the Alaska Cedar in its native habitat can become a medium-sized evergreen tree with a weeping or pyramidal form and can reach the heights 30' to 45' tall in cultivation. This tree makes a striking specimen, with a distinct, graceful, weeping habit. The Nootka Falsecypress or the Alaska Cedar will soften any landscape and can be used in or near water or around a patio or as a lawn specimen in residential or commercial landscapes.

One the most unique characteristics of the Falsecypress or the Alaska Cedar is its pendulous sprays of needles. The long, pendulous, flattened branches are clothed with dark bluish-green or grayish-green, scale like “needles. The Nootka Falsecypress or the Alaska Cedar has unique squared stems that will develop a trunk woods bark will shredding bark with age with a reddish-brown color.

Nootka Falsecypress is an important timber species of northwestern America. Nootka Falsecypress native range can be found along the Pacific coast in Alaska and British Columbia, in the Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington, and at a number of isolated locations. Nootka Falsecypress range is confined to a cool, humid climate. Nootka Falsecypress is one of the slowest growing conifers in the Northwest. The wood Nootka Falsecypress is extremely durable and is excellent for specialty uses.

Alaska-cedar/ Nootka Falsecypress is monoecious which means it has both the male and female reproductive organs in the same individual. Nootka Falsecypress flowers from April to June. The Alaska-cedar produces a tiny inconspicuous yellow or reddish male pollen-bearing strobili and green female cones that are borne on the tips of branchlets. Pollination occurs from mid-April to late May in cones that were initiated the previous summer. Cones of Alaska-cedar generally mature in 2 years, but they may mature in I year. Both first- and second-year cones often occur on the same branch and may easily be confused. The mature cones are ornamental as they are approximately about 12 mm (0.5 in) in diameter and globe shaped. The mature and immature cones of the Alaska-cedar are nearly the same size. The immature cones the Alaska-cedar of are often green and soft, often with purple markings, and are located near the tips of branchlets. Mature cones of an Alaska-cedar are often yellow-green and hard, often with brown markings, and are borne farther from the branch tips.

Nootka Falsecypress has the best growth and development is when it is sited on slopes with deep, well-drained soils. In its native habitats Nootka Falsecypress is frequently found on thin organic soils over bedrock and can survive and grow on soils that are deficient in nutrients.  Nootka Falsecypress grows well on soils rich in calcium and magnesium and frequently on rocky soils. Nootka Falsecypress is a common component of "scrub" stands on organic soils at low elevations in Alaska, and on organic subalpine soils. At high elevations and on half-bog sites, Nootka Falsecypress is often develops a shrub like or prostrate form. Most well drain soils in Ohio will likely support this unique tree, however it is prudent to have a soil test performed when selecting and installing any tree.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Species

There are approximately 15 horticultural varieties of Alaska-cedar that are recognized. Also, there n intergeneric hybrids like, Cupressocyparis x leylandii (Cupressus macrocarpa x Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), has been described in Great Britain. This hybrid can be propagated from cuttings and has been planted at numerous locations in temperate regions with good results. Other intergeneric hybrids include Cupressocyparis x notabilis Mitchell (Cupressus glabra x Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) and Cupressocyparis x ovensii (Cupressus lusitanica x Chamaecyparis nootkatensis Listed below are selections that you will likely find in local Ohio garden centers.

Aurea' - Bright yellow new growth, color is retained well throughout the season.

'Glauca' - Blue foliage on branches that weep. Habit is upright, to 25'

'Pendula' - An extremely hardy cultivar that is increasingly common in today's landscapes. The branches are strongly weeping and display deep green foliage.

'Variegata' - Green foliage bears irregular gold flecks.

Ethnobotany

Special attributes of Alaska-cedar/ Nootka Falsecypress wood include durability, freedom from splitting and checking, resistance to acid, smooth-wearing qualities, and excellent characteristics for milling. Nootka Falsecypress is suitable for boatbuilding, utility poles, heavy flooring, framing, bridge and dock decking, marine piling, window boxes, stadium seats, water and chemical tanks, cooling towers, bedding for heavy machinery, furniture, patterns, molding, sash, doors, paneling, toys, musical instruments, and carving. The wood of Nootka Falsecypress is highly regarded in Japan, and most high-quality logs are exported. The wood of Alaska-cedar/ Nootka Falsecypress is very durable and resistant to fungal attack, partly because of naturally occurring chemicals-nootkatin, chamic acid, and chaminic acid-in the heartwood that inhibit fungal growth at low concentrations

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The Ohio Chapter ISA recommends working with an ISA Certified Arborist when selecting or caring for any tree in your landscape. To better guide you on the vital plant information for the Nootka Cypress, use our friendly users guide below:

Tree Selection Tips

 

Genus Chamaecyparis
Plant Family Cupressaceae (The Cypress family)
Life cycle Perennial woody
Origin Native to North America
Habitat Partial sun or partial shade, shade tolerant, full sun.
Tree form Narrowly pyramidal unless a unique cultivar
Does it produce shade? Very little
Soil

Soil Preference:  Acid soil or neutral soils (pH 5.0 to 7.4) that are well drained.

Tolerances:  Dry sites

Acid Soils:  Prefers

Alkaline Soils:  Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:  Tolerant

Soil Salt:  Tolerant in most conditions

Drought Conditions:  Moderately Tolerant

Poor Drainage:  Intolerant

Bloom Season

April - June and somewhat showy.

Fruit Forms cones
Plant height 30-45 feet (over many years)
Plant spread 4 - 10 feet
Growth rate Slow
Suitable for planting under or near electric(utility) wires No/Yes depending on height of wires and service life of the planting.
Potential Concerns

Alaska-cedar is relatively free from damage by insects.  No infestations of defoliating insects are known.  Both Phloeosinus sp. and the bark-boring, round-headed beetles of the genus Atimia are often found under the bark of dead, dying, or weakened trees and occasionally on healthy trees Blight can be a problem on young plants in nurseries or old plants in landscape situations.  In young plants, branch tips turn brown and die back until the whole branch or young tree is killed.  Tip blight infects trees during wet weather.

The disease causes sooty pustules on the leaves, bark, and cones.  Trees over five years old are less susceptible.  When older trees in landscapes are affected by tip blight, entire trees are seldom killed.  Scorch may look like a disease but is caused by excessive direct sun, freezing stress, dought, or mites.  Freezing stress can be prevented by shading small plants in winter. 

Unique Traits Evergreen.  It has pendulous sprays of needles.  The trunk wood will develop shredding bark with age with a reddish-brown color.  


Written by Mark A. Webber BCMA, CPH, LTE,  MArborA, OCMNT, TRAQ

Sources:

Andersen, Harold E. 1959. Silvical characteristics of Alaska-cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). USDA Forest Service, Station Paper 11. Alaska Forest Research Center, Juneau. 10 p.

Antos, Joseph A., and Donald B. Zobel. 1984. Habitat relationships of Chamaecyparis nootkatensis in southern Washington, Oregon, and California. Canadian Journal of Botany 64:1898-1909.

Harris.A.S. Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (D. Don) Spach Alaska-Cedar.USDA

http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/detail.php?pid=107

http://www.dot.ri.gov/documents/about/research/RIDOT_Salt_Tolerant_Tree_and_Shrub_Guide_August2010.pdf

Gilman. Watson. Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’: Nootka Falsecypress. University of Florida

Photograph sources MkWebber 2020