California Incense Cedar

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
The California Incense-Cedar is a fire tolerant plant native to forest fire prone California. The tree has many attractive features that has made it an important tree for indigenous tribes. Today, it is grown all over the world for its aesthetically pleasing addition to gardens. It can reach heights of 40-60 meters and diameters as large as 3 m.
Kaveri Curlin and Amanda Corcoran (and Annie Stoeth!)
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
7.50 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.61 m

Bark is typically a russet color. Its texture is thick and fibrous with irregular furrows.
Twigs & branches
Branches grow upright and are coated with needles.
The Incense-Cedar has a green simple leaf type with a opposite/subopposite arrangement. The color does not change during the Fall.
Reproductive Structures
The California Incense Cedar's seed cones are usually a green or yellow color and have four scales (the outer two scales each have two seeds, the inner two scales usually do not have seeds). They are around 30 mm long. After being pollinated, the seed cones become an orange color.
  • Taken in February
  • Taken in February
  • Taken in April
Natural range of distribution: 
The California Incense-Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) is native to the West Coast. Found primarily in southern Oregon to Baja California, this North American conifer has several characteristics that allowed it to flourish in an area threatened by droughts and wildfires. The tree has thick bark, which makes the tree more resistant to fires. When threatened by fires, the tree utilises fire-created canopies to aid its seed dispersal. The tree is also extremely drought tolerant. During times of drought, the tree closes its stomata to prevent extraneous water loss.
Origin, history, and uses: 

The California Incense-Cedar has a wide variety of uses. Indigenous tribes in California used the durable bark to fashion bows and arrows, or conical shaped shelters. Tribes also used the leaves to soothe stomach ailments. The aromatic twigs were used to create brooms (with the added bonus of smelling nice!). In more recent years, the California Incense-Cedar has become a favorite wood of the pencil industry. Technical properties of the tree make the wood ideal for sharpening. Additionally, its thermal stability makes it makes it easy to fine tune the pencil production process (because makers understand how the wood will react to drying and gluing).

The California Incense-Cedar is a gymnosperm and is wind pollinated. The tree is monoecious, meaning the male and female flowers are on the same plant. Reproduction begins in early August. The tips of the Incense-Cedar convert to pollen producing staminate cones. In early winter, the cones mature and disperse pollen which eventually lands on the female gametophytes. Fertilization occurs, and seed bearing cones are produced. Gymnosperm life cycle. Begins to reproduce in early August. In the winter, the staminate cones mature and launch pollen into the female parts
Media and Arts