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Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana
Old-growth stand of C. lawsoniana in California
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Chamaecyparis
Species: C. lawsoniana
Binomial name
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana
(A. Murray) Parl.
Natural range of Port Orford cedar
Port Orford cedar foliage with cones: immature seed cones below, pollen cones above
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana showing male cones in spring with diagnostic red colour
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana showing mature female cones

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, known as Port Orford cedar[2] or Lawson cypress,[3] is a species of conifer in the genus Chamaecyparis, family Cupressaceae, native to Oregon and California. It occurs from sea level up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) in the Klamath Mountains valleys, often along streams.


  • Description 1
  • History and names 2
  • Prehistory 3
  • Cultivation 4
    • Wood 4.1
    • Horticulture 4.2
  • Disease 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


It is a large evergreen tree, maturing up to 60 m (197 ft) tall or more, with trunks 1.2–2 m (4–7 ft) in diameter, with feathery foliage in flat sprays, usually somewhat glaucous blue-green in color. The leaves are scale-like, 3–5 mm long, with narrow white markings on the underside, and produced on somewhat flattened shoots. The foliage gives off a rather pungent scent, not unlike parsley. The seed cones are globose, 7–14 mm diameter, with 6-10 scales, green at first, maturing brown in early fall, 6–8 months after pollination. The male cones are 3–4 mm long, dark red, turning brown after pollen release in early spring. The bark is reddish-brown, and fibrous to scaly in vertical strips.

History and names

It was first discovered (by Euro-Americans) near Port Orford in Oregon and introduced into cultivation in 1854, by collectors working for the Lawson & Son nursery in Edinburgh, Scotland, after whom it was named as Lawson Cypress by the describing botanist Andrew Murray. The USDA officially calls it by the name Port Orford cedar, as do most people in its native area, but some botanists prefer to use the name Lawson cypress (or in very rare instances Port Orford cypress) instead. The name "Lawson's cypress" is widely used in horticulture.


The extinct Eocene species Chamaecyparis eureka, known from fossils found on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada, is noted to be very similar to Chamaecyparis pisifera and C. lawsoniana.[4]



The wood is light yet has great strength and rot resistance, and is particularly highly valued in east Asia, with large amounts being exported to Japan where it is in high demand for making coffins, and for shrines and temples.[5] Its lumber is also known for its highly fragrant ginger aroma. Due to the straightness of its grain, it is also one of the preferred woods for the manufacture of arrow shafts. It is also considered an acceptable, though not ideal, wood for construction of aircraft.[6]

However, it is considered more than acceptable for use in stringed instruments. Its fine grain, good strength and tonal quality are highly regarded for soundboards in guitar making.[7]


Several hundred named cultivars of varying crown shape, growth rates and foliage colour have been selected for garden planting. It thrives best in well-drained but moist soils. The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-

  • 'Aurea Densa'[8]
  • 'Chilworth Silver'[9]      
  • 'Ellwoodii'[10]
  • 'Ellwood's Gold'[11]
  • 'Fletcheri'[12]
  • 'Gimbornii'[13]
  • 'Kilmacurragh'[14]
  • 'Lanei Aurea'[15]
  • 'Little Spire'[16]
  • 'Minima Aurea'[17]
  • 'Minima glauca'[18]
  • 'Pembury Blue'[19]
  • 'Pigmaea Argentea'[20]
  • 'Stardust'[21]
  • 'Wisselii'[22]


In the wild, the species is seriously threatened by a root disease caused by the introduced oomycete pathogen, Phytophthora lateralis. This disease is also a problem for horticultural plantings in some parts of North America. The tree is sometimes killed, though less often, by other species of Phytophthora.

Phytophthora lateralis infection begins when mycelium, from a germinated spore, invade the roots. The infection then spreads through the inner bark and cambium around the base of the tree. Spread up the trunk is generally limited. Infected tissue dies and effectively girdles the tree. Large trees are more likely to be infected than small trees due to larger root areas (although all trees at the edges of infected streams will eventually succumb). However, large trees can often live with the infections for a longer duration (up to several years).

C. lawsoniana in streamside populations are highly susceptible to Phytophthora lateralis infection. However, the rate of Phytophthora spread through populations in dry upland areas appears to be slow. Phytophthora lateralis spreads through water via mobile spores (zoospores). The fungus also produces resting spores (chlamydospores) that can persist in soil for a long period of time. New infections generally begin when soil is transferred from an infected population to a non-infected population via human or animal movement. After initial infection in streamside populations, secondary spread via zoospores quickly infects all downstream individuals.

Human facilitated spread is thought to be responsible for most new, and all long-distance, infections. Soil on vehicle tires, especially logging trucks and other off road vehicles, is considered the most pressing problem due to the volume of soil that can be carried and the traffic rate in and between susceptible areas. Spread on boots and mountain bike tires has also been suggested and probably contributes to new infections locally. Animal facilitated spread is thought to occur, but is localized.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service (USFS) attempt to prevent Phytophthora spread through road closures, monitoring, research and education. Research has focused on determining the dynamics and mechanisms of spread, as well as attempts to breed resistant trees. The solution against Phytophtera is known as Mancozeb also commercially known as Dithane (C)

See also


  • Snyder, Gary. 1999. "The Gary Snyder Reader". Counterpoint. ISBN 1-887178-90-2
  1. ^ Farjon, A. 2013. Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. . Downloaded on 13 July 2013.
  2. ^ "Chamaecyparis lawsoniana".  
  3. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17. 
  4. ^ Kotyk, M.E.A.; Basinger, J.F.; McIlver, E.E. (2003). "Early Tertiary Chamaecyparis Spach from Axel Heiberg Island, Canadian High Arctic". Canadian Journal of Botany 81 (2): 113–130.  
  5. ^ Snyder 1999 pg. 225
  6. ^ Kroes, Watkins, and Delp: Aircraft Maintenance and Repair, sixth edition, page 66, McGraw Hill, 1993
  7. ^
  8. ^ "' 'Aurea DensaChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "' 'Chilworth SilverChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "' 'EllwoodiiChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "' 'Ellwood's GoldChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "' 'FletcheriChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "' 'GimborniiChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "' 'KilmacurraghChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  15. ^ "' 'Lanei AureaChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  16. ^ "' 'Little SpireChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  17. ^ "' 'Minima AureaChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  18. ^ "' 'Minima GlaucaChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  19. ^ "' 'Pembury BlueChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "' 'Pigmaea ArgenteaChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "' 'StardustChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  22. ^ "' 'WisseliiChamaecyparis lawsoniana"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 28 June 2013. 

Further reading

  • Conifer Specialist Group (2000). Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Listed as Vulnerable (VU A1de+2e v2.3)
  • Siskiyou National Forest has posted precautions for persons entering areas with Port Orford Cedar populations ([2]).
  • Jules, E.S., M.J. Kaufmann, W. Ritts, & A.L. Carroll (2002). "Spread of an invasive pathogen over a variable landscape: a non-native root rot on Chamaecyparis lawsoniana". Ecology 83 (11): 3167–3181.  
  • Hunt, J. 1959. on Port-Orford-cedar.Phytophthora lateralis Research Note 172: 1-6. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station.
  • Roth, L. F., Trione, E. J., & Ruhmann, W. H. (1957). "Phytophthora induced root rot of native Port-Orford-cedar". Journal of Forestry 55: 294–298. 
  • Torgeson, D. C., Young, R. A., & Milbrath, J. A. 1954. Phytophthora root rot diseases of Lawson cypress and other ornamentals. Oregon Agric. Exp. Stn. Bull. 537: 1-18. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State College.
  • Trione, E J. (1959). "The pathology of Phytophthora lateralis on native Chamaecyparis lawsoniana". Phytopathology 49: 306–310. 
  • Tucker, C. M.; Milbrath, J.A. (1942). "Root rot of Chamaecyparis caused by a species of Phytophthora". Mycologia 34 (1): 94–103.  
  • Zobel, D. B., Roth, L. F., & Hawk, G. M. 1985. Ecology, pathology, and management of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-184: 1-161. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station.
  • US Forest Service database;

External links

  • (Port Orford cedar)Chamaecyparis lawsonianaUSDA Plants Profile for
  • Cupressus lawsonianaJepson Manual treatment for
  • Chamaecyparis lawsonianaConiferCountry
  • — U.C. Photo galleryChamaecyparis lawsoniana
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