Alaska cedar

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Alaska cedar tree


A large, softwood tree, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, found in the Pacific Northwest. Alaska cedar belongs to the cypress family, but is called a cedar because of its aromatic smell. The yellow wood has an even texture and a fine, straight grain. Alaska cedar is used for boat building, veneers, lumber, cabinetry, closets, and chests. It is very durable and has the advantage of being resistant to insects and rotting. Yellow cedar fibers, carefully prepared from strips of the inner bark, were woven, often mixed with wool, into blankets and cords by the Salish, Kwakiutl, and Tlingit tribes (King and Hartley 1979).

Alaska yellow cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis,)

Synonyms and Related Terms

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis; Alaskan cedar; Alaska cypress; yellow cypress; yellow cedar;

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Specific gravity = 0.5 (air dry);
  • Odor of fresh cut surface resembles raw potatoes;
  • Sapwood = white to yellowish;
  • Heartwood = bright yellow when freshly cut and darkens with exposure to air; medium soft to hard; medium weight;
  • Grain = straight;
  • Texture = fine, even;
  • Rays = fine;
  • Tracheids = 30-45 microns in diameter;
  • Density = 31 ppcf

Additional Images

Resources and Citations

  • Alden Identification Services, Microscopic Wood Identification: Link
  • R.King, E.Hartley, "Unusual Fibers Used in Northwest Coast Ethnographic Textiles, Their Preparation & Their Structure", Technology & Conservation 1/79.
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 258
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996