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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Calocedrus decurrens - California Incense Cedar

Another beautiful native conifer growing locally in the Santa Lucia Mts. and in the Sierras up into northern CA into Or. Planted extensively as an ornamental tree with a narrowly pyramidal to conical shaped crown. Many specimens are very narrow and very dense, some more broad and open. Slow to medium growing, 70-90' x 20' wide, with a thick trunk base and tapering upwards. Can be used as a Christmas tree, but they are pretty open when young and don't hold enough ornaments, but they sure smell great.

This is from the Arboretum at UCSC, not sure what's up with the glow... camera issues.



These are on Capitola Ave. near Soquel. There are at least 7 ringing the lot.



These are at Westonbrit Arboretum in England, the trees at the base are Parrotia persica.



Leaves evergreen, scale-like light green and shiny. They look link they are whorled in groups of 4 but are not. They are arranged in decussate pairs with the bases of the leaf being decurrent, say what? They are opposite in 4 rows. If you pull off the tip of a small shoot you will see 4 leaf tips, so call it what you want, I like the idea they are in groups of 4.

Leaves are dark green, 1/12" to 1/4" long however on elongating stems they may be 1/2" long.  Lateral leaves keel-shaped wrapping around the stem, the facial leaf bases covered by the lateral bases. On elongating stems you can easily see the decurrent leaf bases, hence the name of the plant.

Tips of the leaves reflexed from the twig. Fragrant when crushed, persisting 2 years before falling off and leaving a reddish stem.




Stems are flattened sprays, covered for 2 years with foliage becoming reddish and glossy. Exfoliating gray green to red brown bark.  Mature bark is furrowed with long ridges.



This one is on Spreckles in RDM, showing the bark so typical of members related to "cedars".



Male and female cones, males yellow, small, and non persistent. You can see the young female on the left and the drying up male on the right.



Female cones 3/4 - 1" long, ovoid to oblong shaped, light brown at maturity, with 2 sets of scales (only one fertile) that reflex back leaving a central stalk. Pretty distinct. Have had a hard time finding them around here, but found some great ones at Harvery West Park. Not round like so many others in the family, and more like Thuja cones.



Bark is spectacular, especially on older trees.




Several cultivars 'Argentomarginata' and the below is  'Maupin Glow'.



Misidentification: Others like Thuja plicata which you will not see much of here, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana which is pretty common. When you pull of the end of a small shoot you will see 4 leaf tips and not 2 like Thuja, Chamaecyparis or Cupressus. Also look for cones, which I am not seeing so that might not help. Chamaecyparis lawsoniana has little translucent glands in the leaves and little round cones.

Locations: 
Aptos
Corner of Claus Ct and Spreckles Dr in Aptos. Huge one.

Soquel
2631 Capitola Ave. nice ring around the lot
Soquel Drive at E. Walnut, 2 on the large lot. Nice looking examples.

Santa Cruz
The two flanking the driveway at or about 160 New Street downtown in SC 
235 May St. Nice large specimen

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