Calocedrus decurrens. INCENSE CEDAR. Cascades, Sierra Nevada
CUPRESSACEAE (Cypress family)

The incense cedar is familiar to many in its natural habitat around 6000 feet, for example at Stanford Sierra Camp on Fallen Leaf Lake, where enormous examples over 3 feet in diameter with deeply furrowed cinnamon bark abound and reach ages of several centuries. Ancient fire that decimated the white firs and Jeffrey pines scarred but did not wipe out the cedars. You can't help viewing them with reverence. By comparison, the ones on formerly drought-stricken Santa Teresa Street are unimpressive. Young trees are very decorative, and may also be seen on Santa Teresa Street. At this stage they resemble Thuja in having the small scale-like leaves arranged in flat sprays, but can be distinguished by noting that the leaves run down the twigs at the place of attachment. Pollen-bearing yellow flowers bring color to the tips of the leaf sprays. Cones about an inch long have only five scales and release winged seeds in August, sometimes in heavy quantities that leave the sidewalk speckled with oil spots where the seeds have been trodden on. Young trees are on the hill between Stanford Avenue and Raimundo Way. Two dozen large specimens appeared on the Cedar Terrace (south end of the Science and Engineering Quad) in 1999, exhibiting staminate flowers in 2000. What with additions in 2003 to make a total of 30, a mighty grove is on its way. In Palo Alto, a mighty specimen is at 327 Tennyson Avenue.

Incense cedar and Sequoiadendron giganteum typically grow well on campus for a few decades into beautiful young trees before their leader branches suffer wilting and dieback from Botryosphaeria canker.

Illus.: George B. Sudworth. Forest Trees of the Pacific Slope. USDA, 1907. Click for larger image.

Illustrations (links open new windows): Leaf detail


Name derivation, genus | species Greek kalos (beautiful) and cedrus (cedar) | running down the stem (the green leaf bases)

Related material: Gymnosperm Database | treatment in Jepson Manual | Canopy Trees for Palo Alto Tree Library

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