It has a complex taxonomic and nomenclatural history. It was first described in the genus Cupressus as Cupressus nootkatensis by David Don in 1824, but in 1841 it was transferred to Chamaecyparis by Édouard Spach on the basis of its foliage being in flattened sprays (as in other Chamaecyparis, but unlike most, though not all, other Cupressus species). This treatment was almost universally used through the 20th century. However, this does not fit with the morphology and phenology of the cones, which are far more like Cupressus, like them maturing in their second year, not in their first (Frankis 1993) and it can also be grafted onto rootstocks of other Cupressus but not onto other Chamaecyparis (Welch 1991). Subsequent genetic (Gadek et al. 2000) and micromorphological (Jägel & Stützel 2001) evidence also strongly supported its return to Cupressus and exclusion from Chamaecyparis.
More recently, Farjon et al. (2002) transferred it to a new genus Xanthocyparis, together with the newly discovered Xanthocyparis vietnamensis (Cupressus vietnamensis); this species is similar to Nootka Cypress in many ways, in that while they are not related to Chamaecyparis, they differ from other Cupressus in usually having just four cone scales, not six or more as usual in other Cupressus. Little et al. (2004, 2006) pointed out that an earlier nomenclatural combination in the genus Callitropsis existed, as Callitropsis nootkatensis (D.Don) Oerst., published in 1864 but overlooked by other subsequent authors. Little et al. therefore synonymised Xanthocyparis with Callitropsis, the correct name for these species under the ICBN when treated in a distinct genus. Little further pointed out that the other species of Cupressus native to North America are more closely related to Nootka Cypress than they are to Cupressus sempervirens (the type species of Cupressus) and other Old World Cupressus species. He therefore transferred all of the American Cupressus species to Callitropsis.
However, other botanists (Xiang & Li 2005, Rushforth 2007) pointed out that the separation of Callitropsis (or Xanthocyparis) from Cupressus is uncertain on this evidence, and that the species of Callitropsis are best retained in Cupressus unless further genetic evidence for splitting Cupressus could be found. This has now been confirmed by DNA studies by Mu et al. (2006), which placed Nootka Cypress in the middle of several Chinese Cupressus, closest to Cupressus funebris and Cupressus duclouxiana, and by Mao et al. (2010), which placed it within Cupressus as sister to all the American Cupressus species. The cones having just four scales is also not conclusive, with several other Cupressus species (C. bakeri, C. glabra, C. lusitanica) occasionally having four-scaled cones. Treatment in Cupressus is accepted and recommended by the Cupressus Conservation Project and the Gymnosperm Database.
Nootka Cypress is an evergreen tree to 40 m tall and a trunk up to 1 m diameter (exceptionally to 60 m tall and 4 m diameter), with stringy grey-brown to purple-brown bark. The crown is conic-columnar, with horizontal or pendulous branches, and more strictly pendulous branchlets. The foliage is in flat sprays, with dark green scale-leaves 3-5 mm long; when crushed, they have a strong sour-resinous odour. The seed cones have four (occasionally six) scales, most closely resembling the cones of Cupressus lusitanica, except being somewhat smaller, typically 10-14 mm diameter. Each scale has a pointed triangular bract about 1.5-2 mm long, similar to other Cupressus and unlike the crescent-shaped, non-pointed bract on the scales of Chamaecyparis cones (Frankis, 1993). Pollination is in early spring, with the mature cones opening to release the seeds 16-20 months later. Growth is slow, and the trees can be very long-lived, with ages of over 1,600 years reported (Brown 1996).
Nootka Cypress is native to the west coast of North America, from the Prince William Sound area in Alaska, south to northwesternmost California, typically occurring on wet sites in mountains, often close to the tree line, but sometimes also at lower altitudes. It derives its name from its discovery at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Nootka Cypress is a popular ornamental tree in gardens, grown for its elegant weeping foliage. Several cultivars have been named. Inertia and conservatism in the horticultural and forestry industries (both notoriously slow to adopt the results of botanical research) mean the name Chamaecyparis nootkatensis is likely to continue being listed in these situations for a long time yet. It is also sometimes called Yellow Cypress, and sometimes wrongly called a cedar (Cedrus), due to confusion by early European settlers of its scented wood with the unrelated but somewhat similarly scented wood of cedars; this misapplication should be avoided (Kelsey & Dayton 1942).
Nootka Cypress is one of the parents of the very popular garden hybrid Leyland Cypress Cupressus × leylandii (syn. × Cupressocyparis leylandii, × Cuprocyparis leylandii); the other parent being Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey Cypress).
A. S. Harris
Alaska-cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), also known as Alaska yellow-cedar, yellow-cedar, Alaska cypress, and Nootka cypress, is an important timber species of northwestern America. It is 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 (1,10). It is confined to a cool, humid climate. Toward the south, Alaska-cedar rarely grows below 600 m (2,000 ft) in elevation; but north of midcoastal British Columbia, it grows from sea level to tree line. It is one of the slowest growing conifers in the Northwest. The wood is extremely durable and is excellent for specialty uses. Little effort is being made to manage the species to assure a continuing supply.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Southcentral Alaska to California.
Occurrence in North America
south-central Alaska to southwestern Oregon with isolated groves in the
Siskiyou Mountains of northern California [1,23,24]. The eastern edge of
Alaska-cedar's range is defined by two disjunct populations: one in the
Selkirk Mountains of southeastern British Columbia  and one in the
Aldrich Mountains of central Oregon .
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
4 Sierra Mountains
- The native range of Alaska-cedar.
Alaska-cedar is a native, evergreen, long-lived (as long as 3,500 years
), monoecious tree [1,24]. It is slow growing with a narrow crown;
the twigs are four-angled . The boles of mature trees have
buttressed and fluted bases, and the bark is shreddy .
Alaska-cedar is a medium-sized tree, although at treeline it is reduced
to a shrub. It can obtain heights of 100 to 125 feet (30-38 m) with a
d.b.h. as great as 12 feet (3.7 m) . The root system is shallow
with complex layering . The leaves are scalelike and roughly 0.125
inch (0.32 cm) in length [1,46]. The stroboli are borne on the tips of
branchlets. The male strobili are yellow. The female strobili are
green, spherical, and 0.5 inch (1 cm) in diameter .
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Coastal forests.
and summer-wet, cool mesothermal climates . It occurs from
shoreline to treeline in the northern portion of its range but is
restricted to higher elevations in the southern portion .
Elevation: Elevational ranges for Alaska-cedar in several western
states are as follows [24,49]:
Alaska 0 to 3,000 0 - 910
Washington and Oregon 2,000 to 7,500 600 - 2300
California 4,950 to 7,260 1,500 - 2,200
Soil: Alaska-cedar has a strong affinity for deep, well-drained soils
rich in calcium and magnesium, and derived from parent materials of
andesite, diorite, gabbro, or basalt (Histosol and Spodosol soil orders)
. It also can be found on the poor, rocky soils of the alpine
environment far above the limits of other conifers .
Associates: In addition to those previously listed under Distribution
and Occurrence, Alaska-cedar's overstory associates include California
red fir (Abies magnifica), subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa), Pacific silver
fir (A. anabilis), noble fir (A. procera), Brewer spruce (Picea
breweriana), whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), shore pine (P.
contorta), incense-cedar (Libocedrus decurrens), and Pacific yew (Taxus
Understory associates include big huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum),
Alaska blueberry (V. alaskaense), fool's huckleberry (Menziesia
ferruginea), and copperbush (Cladathamnus pyroliflorus) .
Key Plant Community Associations
Alaska-cedar is listed as a dominant or codominant overstory species in
the following publications:
A preliminary classification system for vegetation of Alaska .
The forest communities of Mount Rainer National Park .
A preliminary classification of forest communities in the central
portion of the western Cascades in Oregon .
Preliminary plant associations of the southern Cascade Mountain Province .
Preliminary plant associations of the Siskiyou Mountain Province .
Vegetation and the environment in old growth forests of northern
southeast Alaska: A plant association classification .
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
205 Mountain hemlock
215 Western white pine
223 Sitka spruce
224 Western hemlock
225 Western hemlock - Sitka spruce
226 Coastal true fir - hemlock
227 Western redcedar - western hemlock
228 Western redcedar
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest
K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest
K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir - hemlock forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce - fir forest
Soils and Topography
Alaska-cedar grows at elevations from 600 to 2300 m (2,000 to 7,500 ft) in the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington and occasionally down to sea level on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and the west coast of Vancouver Island. In Oregon, most Alaska-cedar grows on ridges and peaks from 1500 to 1700 m (5,000 to 5,600 ft) high in the western Cascades between the Clackamas and McKenzie rivers, but it can grow throughout much of the moisture conditions present at high elevations in the Cascade Range from central Oregon north (2). On the southern British Columbia mainland, it usually grows between 600 and 1500 m (2,000 and 5,000 ft) but is found at lower elevations northward until it reaches sea level at Knight Inlet. From there, north and west to Prince William Sound in Alaska, it is found from sea level to tree line, up to 900 m (3,000 ft) in southeast Alaska and 300 m (1,000 ft) around Prince William Sound.
Table 1- Climate in the range of Alaska-cedar¹ Average Annual
Snowfall Frost-free period m °C mm cm days Washington² 1206 4 2340 1140 114 Alaska: Sitka 4 7 2130 114 149 Cordova 12 5 2260 340 111 ft °F in in days Washington² 3,958 39 92 450 114 Alaska: Sitka 13 45 84 45 149 Cordva 39 41 89 134 111 ¹Compiled from U.S. Weather Service records.
²Stampede Pass near Mount Rainier.
fruitbody of Leucopaxillus rhodoleucus is associated with Chamaecyparis nootkatensis
Foodplant / feeds on
Trisetacus chamaecypari feeds on cone of Chamaecyparis nootkatensis
Associated Forest Cover
Alaska-cedar is a component of the following Society of American Foresters forest cover types (5):
205 Mountain Hemlock
223 Sitka Spruce
224 Western Hemlock
225 Western Hemlock-Sitka Spruce
226 Coastal True Fir-Hemlock
227 Western Redcedar-Western Hemlock
228 Western Redcedar
Shrubs commonly associated with Alaska-cedar in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia are: big whortleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum), ovalleaf whortleberry (V. ovalifolium), Alaska blueberry (V. alaskaense), rustyleaf menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea), Cascades azalea (Rhododendron albiflorum), and copperbush (Cladothamnus pyroliflorus). These shrubs, except Rhododendron albiflorum and Vaccinium membranaceum, are associates in Alaska as well. Other plant associates include fiveleaf bramble (Rubus pedatus), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), queenscup (Clintonia uniflora), ferny goldthread (Coptis asplenifolia), deerfern (Blechnum spicant), claspleaf twistedstalk (Streptopus amplexifolius), rosy twistedstalk (S. roseus), and skunkcabbage (Lysichitum americanum).
Recognized vegetative communities from British Columbia south are Chamaecyparis nootkatensis/Lysichitum americanum and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis/Rhododendron albiflorum (7). In southeast Alaska, a common association in the open conifer forest surrounding bogs is Pinus contorta-Tsuga heterophylla-Thuja plicata-Chamaecyparis nootkatensis/Vaccinium ovalifolium-V. alaskaense-Ledum groenlandicum/Sphagnum squarrosum (25).
Diseases and Parasites
Since at least 1880, Alaska-cedar has suffered advancing decline and mortality on more than 100 000 ha (247,000 acres) of bog and semibog land in southeast Alaska. Abiotic factors appear to be responsible, but the primary cause remains unknown (14).
In southeast Alaska, brown bears (Ursa arctos) frequently cause basal scarring by biting and stripping bark. Scarring is most common on well drained sites. This wounding results in fungal attack, which in time reduces volume and value of butt logs (14).
Fire Management Implications
This study revealed that western hemlock/western redcedar/Alaska-cedar
forests produce greater nutrient losses to the atmosphere when the slash
composition has a greater proportion of Alaska-cedar and western
redcedar. One can expect smaller nutrient losses when western hemlock
makes up the majority of the slash.
Nutrient losses can be limited if the the forest floor and larger fuels
are moist when burned. This limits fuel consumption. Also nutrient
loss can be reduced by more complete utilization during harvest, thus
reducing the slash load.
The study site was on a gentle, easterly slope at an elevation of 500 m
(1,650 ft). The climate of the area is marine, warm-temperate, rainy.
The mean annual precipitation is from 87 to 138 inches (220-350 cm),
which is received mainly in the form of rain. The soil over most of the
area was a Typic Haplorthod with a mor forest floor with a mean depth of
10 inches (26 cm).
The area had been logged during a snow-free period using a high lead
harvesting system. After clearcutting the slash was sorted by species*
into five diameter classes:
(1) < 1 cm
(2) 1.1-3.0 cm
(3) 3.1-5.0 cm
(4) 5.1-7.0 cm
(5) > 7 cm
*Alaska-cedar and western redcedar were combined and shall be henceforth
referred to as cedar.
The area was then divided into 50 2.25-square-meter plots that were
greater than 0.5 meter apart. These were slpit into 10 groups of 5
plots; within each group the plots were randomly assigned a species.
Western hemlock slash had three fuel loadings (4.4, 9.9, 17.7 kg/m2)
while cedar and Douglas-fir had one fuel loading (9.9 kg/m2). Each plot
received all size classes of slash. Ten samples of slash were oven
dried and used to determine prefire chemical and percent composition.
The plots were burned on 10 different days in July, August, and
September 1984 to incorporate a range of fuel moisture conditions.
Fire Management Considerations
The burning of slash is controversial. Fyles and others  recommend
the burning of slash to improve access for planters, increase plantable
sites, reduce brush competition, and reduce fire hazard; however, there
is little information about the effects of slash burning on Alaska-cedar
[12,38]. Feller  gives information on the effects of slashburning
on nutrient loss (see Fire Case Study).
After fire in the subalpine environment Alaska-cedar is slow to
regenerate in the krummholz zone .
Broad-scale Impacts of Fire
Fire resistance is rated as low for Alaska-cedar , although a few
individuals will survive a cool fire [7,25].
Immediate Effect of Fire
The immediate effect of a cool to hot fire on Alaska-cedar is damage to
the cambium layer, usually resulting in the death of the tree .
Tree without adventitious-bud root crown
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
Fire is not an important factor in Alaska-cedar's cool, wet habitats.
Alaska-cedar's bark is thin and offers little protection from fire .
The fire regime of Alaska-cedar's habitats is one of long-interval (150
to 350+ years) severe crown or surface fires resulting in stand
More info for the terms: climax, layering
Depending on the site, Alaska-cedar can be a long-lived seral species or
a climax species [14,16]. In the subalpine environment it is the first
tree species to become established, later forming large krummholz stands
from layering . Alaska-cedar is classified as shade tolerant; it
will respond to 10 percent of full light and reach photosynthetic
saturation at 60 percent .
Sexual: The frequency of good seed crops is irregular (4 or more years)
, and germination rates are low . A germination rate of around
12 percent can be obtained with a warm stratification (30 days at 68 to
86 degrees Fahrenheit [20-30 deg C]) followed by a moist stratification
(30 days at 40 degrees Fahrenheit [4 deg C]). A tetrazolium stain has
been recommended for a test of seed viability . The seed are quite
small with an average of 108,000 seeds per pound (240,000 seeds/kg)
[23,24]. The seed can be stored dry at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 deg C)
for 3 to 5 years . Bower and others  recommend foliar
application of gibberellin A3 to increase flowering and filled seed.
From the parent tree the mean dissemination distance is about 400 feet
(120 m) . Germination is epigeal , and mineral soil or well
decomposed organic matter are the preferred germination substrates .
Vegetative: Alaska-cedar reproduces asexually by layering. It layers
readily under the deep, heavy coastal snowpacks . Vegetative
reproduction is the method of choice to meet the demands for
containerized stock, due to the low germination rate and infrequent good
seed crops . Cuttings, treated with indolebutyric acid and potted
in the greenhouse, were ready for planting in 1 year . Clones have
advantages over seedlings such as fewer multiple leaders and uniformity
in size . Karlsson  and Karlsson and Russell  provide
in-depth information on age of the donor, clone survival, establishment,
and planting guidelines.
Preliminary results indicate that there is genetic variation between
provenances for shoot growth; however, further testing is needed to
establish transfer zones .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
More info for the terms: chamaephyte, phanerophyte
Plant Response to Fire
adjacent unburned forests .
Reaction to Competition
Most Alaska-cedar timber has come from logging mixed old-growth stands in which the species is a minor component. Because of its slow rate of growth in relation to other commercial species, there has been little interest in management of Alaska-cedar for timber on the more productive sites. It may be well suited for planting on cold, wet sites, however, especially at high elevations where other species are less likely to thrive. It survives heavy snow loads because of its narrow, flexible crown and drooping branches, and its flexibility allows it to survive on avalanche tracks. Interest in management of Alaska-cedar is relatively new, and information on growth and yield of young stands is not available. Volume tables are available for old-growth trees (6).
Life History and Behavior
Flowering of Alaska-cedar occurs progressively earlier in the spring as
elevation decreases, suggesting that bud development is based on heat
sums . Alaska-cedar flowers from April to June depending on latitude
and elevation . The cones of trees in the southern portion of its
range mature from September to October, and dispersal begins in October
and lasts through spring. In the northern portion of its range and in
alpine environments, maturation of the cones is also based on heat sums,
with 2- and 3-year reproductive cycles, respectively, being the norm
. In the northern portion of its range pollination of cones
initiated the previous summer occurs from mid-April to late May; cones
mature the following year . The mature cones can be identified by
their yellow-brown color .
Formation of both pollen cones and seed cones can be induced in juvenile trees by foliar application of gibberellin-A3 under conditions of long day length. Cones induced by gibberellin-A3 yield higher percentages of filled seeds with higher rates of germination than cones that develop under natural conditions. Seed orchards should offer the opportunity for treatment and thereby provide a practical means of increasing cone production (22).
Seed Production and Dissemination
Flowering and Fruiting
Growth and Yield
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Other intergeneric hybrids include Cupressocyparis x notabilis Mitchell (Cupressus glabra x Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) and Cupressocyparis x ovensii (Cupressus lusitanica x Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) (19).
Barcode data: Callitropsis nootkatensis
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Callitropsis nootkatensis
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Xanthocyparis nootkatensis has a vast range and is common or abundant in many locations. It has been exploited for timber and is a slow growing tree to maturity.Yellow cedar decline continues in Alaska and British Columbia and appears to be related to changing climate conditions. Dieback is not a phenomenon occurring uniformly across the range, not all populations are affected similarly, with some populations remaining healthy and (re)productive. There appear to be adequate mature individuals to provide seed source into the future, but dieback remains quite widespread throughout the northern forests. At this stage, the decline is insufficient to qualify for any IUCN threat category and therefore this species is assessed as Least Concern.
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Occasional in coastal western North America, with thousands of occurrences.
In southeast Alaska, Alaska-cedar is suffering from dieback that started
around the turn of the century [28,30,31]. Most of the mortality has
occurred in bog and semibog sites . The search for a pathogen has
been exhaustive with little results. It now seems likely the cause is
abiotic [28,30,31]. The most plausible hypothesis offered thus far is
that of a warming trend that started in Alaska in the late 1800's which
has decreased the snow pack . Because Alaska-cedar has low frost
resistance , the decreased snow pack renders the fine roots
susceptible to frost damage. This is the first sign of Alaska-cedar
Alaska-cedar is relatively free of damaging agents due to chemical
composition of the wood . It is virtually rot-free, and the snags
can persist for 100+ years . Hennon  lists the 77 known fungi
associated with Alaska-cedar.
Clearcutting changes the species compostion of second-growth forests in
the Western Hemlock Zone, increasing Alaska-cedar's percent composition
. The recommended silvicultural practice of cutting old-growth
Alaska-cedar is clearcut with planting .
Plantation-grown Alaska-cedar has a growth rate comparable to that of
Douglas-fir; this is much greater than natural regeneration of
Alaska-cedar within its range .
Equations have been developed for Alaska-cedar based on growth percent
as an estimation of future productivity on different soil types .
Hamilton  explored the response of Alaska-cedar to single-tree
selection method, and he determined that Alaska-cedar will respond
favorably to the method.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Alaska-cedar as a component of old-growth forests can provide critical
thermal and hiding cover for large ungulates  and small mammals
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Alaska-cedar is of minor importance to livestock and wildlife as browse.
When densities of black-tailed deer are high, Alaska-cedar is browsed
. The Alaskan brown bear girdles the upslope side of the tree in
the spring to feed on the phloem, which is high in sucrose .
Wood Products Value
straight grain, durability, freedom from splitting and checking,
resistance to acid, and excellent milling qualities [1,24,33,35]. The
wood is used in window frames, doors, boat building, utility poles,
marine pilings, cabinets [24,56], carving, and greenhouse construction
Most of the harvested wood is exported to Japan where, because of its
similar bright yellow color, it is used as a substitute for the rare
hinoki (Chamaecyparis obtusa) .
The wood has an unusual and distinct "potato-like" odor .
Other uses and values
bowls, and dishes. The roots were split and used for the framework of
baskets and hats .
Alaska-cedar is grown as an ornamental in North America and Europe
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
disturbance is recurrent, for it is the only conifer capable of
surviving on sites with frequent avalanches .
Cupressus nootkatensis (D.Don 1824) [synonyms Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (D.Don) Spach 1841, Callitropsis nootkatensis (D.Don) Oersted 1864, Xanthocyparis nootkatensis (D.Don) Farjon & Hiep 2002] is a cypress of the Cupressaceae family that possesses a chequered taxonomic and nomenclatural history. This species goes by many common names including: Nootka cypress, yellow cypress, Alaska cypress, Nootka cedar, yellow cedar, Alaska cedar, and Alaska yellow cedar. The specific epithet "nootkatensis" is derived from its discovery on the lands of a First Nation of Canada, those lands of the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, who were formerly referred to as the Nootka.
First described in the genus Cupressus as Cupressus nootkatensis in 1824, it was transferred to Chamaecyparis in 1841 on the basis of its foliage being in flattened sprays, as in other Chamaecyparis, but unlike most (though not all) other Cupressus species.
However, this placement does not fit with the morphology and phenology of the cones, which are far more like Cupressus, like them maturing in two years, not one. Genetic evidence, published by Gadek et al. (2000), strongly supported its return to Cupressus and exclusion from Chamaecyparis.
More recently, Farjon et al. (2002) transferred it to a new genus Xanthocyparis, together with the newly discovered Vietnamese golden cypress Xanthocyparis vietnamensis; this species is remarkably similar to Nootka Cypress and the treatment has many arguments in its favour, as while they are not related to Chamaecyparis, neither do they fit fully in Cupressus despite the many similarities.
Little et al. (2004), while confirming the above relationship with further evidence, pointed out that an earlier nomenclatural combination in the genus Callitropsis existed, as Callitropsis nootkatensis (D.Don) Oerst., published in 1864 but overlooked or ignored by other subsequent authors. Little et al. therefore synonymised Xanthocyparis with Callitropsis, the correct name for these species under the ICBN when treated in a distinct genus. The name Xanthocyparis has now been proposed for conservation, and the 2011 International Botanical Congress followed that recommendation.
In 2010, Mao et al. performed a more detailed molecular analysis and placed Nootka Cypress back in Cupressus. However, this is disputed, as the tree would compose a monophyletic subgenus. "The argument that it warrants treatment as a monotypic genus is not without merit, in which case the correct name is Callitropsis nootkatensis."
Nootka Cypress is native to the west coast of North America, from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, south to the Klamath Mountains in northernmost California. It is typically occurring on wet sites in mountains, often close to the tree line, but sometimes also at lower altitudes.
Cupressus nootkatensis is an evergreen tree growing up to 40 m tall, commonly with pendulous branches. The foliage is in flat sprays, with dark green, 3–5 mm long scale-leaves. The cones have 4 (occasionally 6) scales, and resemble the cones of Mexican Cypress (Cupressus lusitanica, another Cupressus species which can show foliage in flat sprays) fairly closely, except being somewhat smaller, typically 10–14 mm diameter; each scale has a pointed triangular bract about 1.5–2 mm long, again similar to other Cupressus and unlike the crescent-shaped, non-pointed bract on the scales of Chamaecyparis cones. The Caren Range on the west coast of British Columbia is home to the oldest Nootka Cypress specimens in the world, with one specimen found to be 1,834 years old (Gymnosperm Database).
It is one of the parents of the hybrid Leyland Cypress; as the other parent, Monterey Cypress, is also in genus Cupressus, the ready formation of this hybrid is a further argument for the placement of the Nootka Cypress close to Cupressus.
In Alaska, where the tree is primarily referred to as "yellow-cedar," extensive research has been conducted into large-scale die-offs of yellow-cedar stands. These studies have concluded that the tree has depended upon heavy coastal snowpacks to insulate its shallow roots from cold Arctic winters. The impacts of climate change have resulted in thinner, less-persistent snowpacks, in turn causing increased susceptibility to freeze damage.
This species has been considered to be one of the finest timber trees in the world and has been exported to China during the last century. The wood has been used for flooring, interior finish and shipbuilding
The various physical properties of the wood make it an attractive material for both general construction and boat building. Due to its slow growth it is hard and, like other cypress woods it is durable; it therefore offers good dimensional stability, and is resistant to weather, insects, and contact with soil. It works easily with hand or machine tools; it turns and carves quite well. It can be fastened with glues, screws, and nails. Nootka Cypress's texture, uniform color, and straight grain will take a fine finish. It resists splintering and wears smoothly over time. When fresh cut it has a somewhat unpleasant bitter scent, but when seasoned it has barely any discernible scent, hence its traditional use in face masks.
Due to its expense, it is used mainly for finished carpentry. Typical uses include exterior siding, shingles, decking, exposed beams, glue-laminated beams, paneling, cabinetry, and millwork. In historic preservation it can be used as a substitute for Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar) and Taxodium distichum (Baldcypress), due to current difficulties in obtaining quality timber of those species due to environmental concern and past over-exploitation, although this applies equally to Nootka Cypress.
Other uses for Nootka Cypress include saunas, and battery containers due to its resistance to acids. Traditionally, paddles, masks, dishes, and bows were made from the wood.
It will grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9, but can be difficult to grow. Best growth is in light or heavy soil, preferably well drained, and in climates with cool summers. It prefers semi-shade to full sun.
Nootka Cypress can also be used in bonsai.
Nootka Cypress has extreme heartwood qualities that make this one of the most desired sources of heat on the west coast. A dead tree can last up to 100 years for firewood. This wood burns very hot and lasts a long time as embers.
The Nootka Cypress is used extensively by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, along with another cypress, Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar). While Western Red Cedar was preferred for larger projects (houses, canoes), Nootka Cypress, was used for smaller carvings such as vessels and utensils.
A legend amongst the Nootka peoples of the Hesquiaht First Nation tells of the origins of the Nootka Cypress. In the legend, a raven encounters three young women drying salmon on the beach. He asks the women if they are afraid of being alone, if they are afraid of bears, wolves, and other animals. Each women responded "no". But when asked about owls, the women were indeed afraid of owls. Hearing this, the trickster raven hid in the forests, and made the calls of an owl. The terrified women ran up the mountains, but turned into Nootka Cypress trees when they were out of breath. According to the Nootka, this is why Nootka Cypress grows on the sides of mountains, and also why the bark is silky like a woman's hair, the young trunk is smooth like a woman's body.
- The Plant List, Xanthocyparis nootkatensis
- Mao, K., Hao, G., Liu, J., Adams, R. P. & Milne, R. I. 2010: Diversification and biogeography of Juniperus (Cupressaceae): variable diversification rates and multiple intercontinental dispersals. - In New Phytologist. 188(1):254-272.
- The Gymnosperm Database - Cupressus
- The Gymnosperm Database - Cupressus nootkatensis
- Yellow-cedar are dying in Alaska; scientists now know why
- Peattie, Donald Culross. Trees You Want to Know. Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin, 1934 p 30
- "RHS Plant Selector - Cupressus nootkatensis 'Pendula'". Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- Stewart (1984), p. 27
- Gadek, P. A., Alpers, D. L., Heslewood, M. M., & Quinn, C. J. 2000. Relationships within Cupressaceae sensu lato: a combined morphological and molecular approach. American Journal of Botany 87: 1044–1057. Abstract
- Farjon, A., Hiep, N. T., Harder, D. K., Loc, P. K., & Averyanov, L. 2002. A new genus and species in the Cupressaceae (Coniferales) from northern Vietnam, Xanthocyparis vietnamensis. Novon 12: 179–189.
- Little, D. P., Schwarzbach, A. E., Adams, R. P. & Hsieh, Chang-Fu. 2004. The circumscription and phylogenetic relationships of Callitropsis and the newly described genus Xanthocyparis (Cupressaceae). American Journal of Botany 91 (11): 1872–1881. Abstract
- Mill, R. R. and Farjon, A. (2006). Proposal to conserve the name Xanthocyparis against Callitropsis Oerst. (Cupressaceeae). Taxon 55(1): 229-231.
- Stewart, Hilary. (1984). Cedar: tree of life to the Northwest Coast Indians. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 0-88894-437-3.
- Zsolt Debreczy, Istvan Racz (2012). Kathy Musial, ed. Conifers Around the World (1st ed.). DendroPress. p. 1089. ISBN 9632190610.
In addition to variation in habit within the species, occasional plants have divergent forms of foliage. One collection (Canada, British Columbia, dry woods near Victoria, S . Flowers s . n ., 1 Aug 1950, UC, WIU) has older foliage typical of the species, with all newer foliage strongly flattened, with facial and lateral leaves of strongly unequal size, and with smaller cones. In light of the foliar and habit phenotypes recognized in the horticultural literature (for example, A. J. Rehder  listed, with full bibliographic citations, 22 published varieties and forms best considered as cultivars), no taxonomic significance is attached to this variation here.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Called Cupressus nootkatensis in some recent works; Kartesz (1994 checklist) and Flora of North America (1993) maintain this species in the genus Chamaecyparis. Kartesz (discussion with L. Morse 29Jul01) says he may treat this species in Cupressus in his next edition, but plans to keep C. lawsoniana and C. thyoides in Chamaecyparis.
Cupressus nookatensis D. Don. 
Xanthocyparis nootkatensis (D. Don) Farjon & Harder 
member of the Cypress family (Cupressaceae) [32,64].
Alaska-cedar hybridizes with members of the genera Xanthocyparis and Cupressus. The hybrids
are as follows [23,24,61]:
Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ÃÂ Xanthocyparis vietnamensis
Cupressocyparis ÃÂ notabilis (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ÃÂ Cupressus glabra)
Cupressocyparis ÃÂ ovensii (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ÃÂ Cupressus lusitanica)
Cupressocyparis ÃÂ leylandii (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ÃÂ Cupressus macrocarpa)
The Cupressocyparis hybrids have been extensively introduced in Great Britain .