The Alaska Cedar, which is commonly known as Yellow Cedar, Alaska Cypress, Nootka Cypress, Yellow Cypress, Canoe Cedar, and Sitka Cypress, is a hardy, evergreen tree that is found in the cold, wet climate of the Pacific region, particularly in the coastal areas of Alaska and British Columbia. It is also found in the Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington.
The tree is tall and slender and grows up to a height of 50 to 100 feet. The slim trunk, which is one to four feet in diameter, makes Alaska Cedar look taller than its actual height. The bark is thin, gray-brown and fibrous and with long fissures while the twigs are stout and reddish-brown in color. The branches fan out horizontally, giving the tree a slightly drooping look.
It has a narrow crown overhead. The leaves are pointed and bright yellow-green while the fruit is the cone with a diameter of 12 mm. Each cone carries two to four seeds hidden under the scales. This cedar is almost identical with the Port-Oxford-Cedar; the only difference being that it does not bear white Xs on the underside of the scales whereas the Port Cedar does. The wood produces an agreeable, resinous scent, which is probably the reason why it is free from diseases and pests.
It is a slow-growing conifer but it is highly valued because of the quality of its wood, which is durable and commercially much in demand. The Native Americans used the wood to make canoe paddles, poles, boats and other accessories while the Northwest coastal Indians carved masks out of its soft wood.
It is so versatile that even today it is put to many uses like making bedding for heavy machinery, fashioning furniture, boat-building, bridge, dock and deck making, carving and marine piling. Even musical instruments are made out of it. This cedar is one of the most prized conifers, much in demand even in Japan because of its durability and commercial value.