Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Calocedrus Decurrens

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Calocedrus decurrens (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Calocedrus decurrens (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun to partial shade

Flowering period: Mid winter

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 40m

Eventual Spread: 8m

Hardiness: 6a – 9b

Family: Cupressaceae

Calocedrus decurrens  is a slow growing, evergreen tree with a upright conical habit. Its mid green leaves are scale like, up to 15mm long, produced in flattened sprays and are fragrant when crushed. Its trunk may achieve a diameter of up to 3m. Its bark is orange/ brown, smooth when young, becoming fissured and peels off in strips as it matures. Its monoecious flowers are pollen cones and are up to 8mm long. Its fruit are in the form of cones, are initially pale green, maturing to yellow/ brown and are up to 35mm long.

Calocedrus decurrens Leaf (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Calocedrus decurrens Leaf (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Calocedrus decurrens, commonly known as the Incense Cedar or Californian Incense Cedar, is native to western North America. The aromatic wood of this tree is the primary source of wooden pencils. Calocedrus decurrens is synonymous with Libocedrus decurrens.

The etymological root of the binomial name Calocedrus is derived from the Greek Kalos meaning ‘beautiful’ and Cedrus another genus of coniferous tree. Decurrens is derived from the Latin decurrere meaning ‘flowing down’, in reference to the leaf margins running into the stem.

The landscape architect may find Calocedrus decurrens useful as a conical ornamental tree. Once established this tree is drought tolerant.

Ecologically, Calocedrus decurrens may be a host to a number of insects who inhabit the crevices of the mature bark.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given Calocedrus decurrens their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Calocedrus decurrens Bark (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Calocedrus decurrens Bark (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Calocedrus decurrens prefers moist, deep, humus rich, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil although it prefers acidic.

Calocedrus decurrens requires little maintenance.


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