Facts About the Weeping Alaskan Cedar

Overview

Long, pendent sprays of deep green, scaled foliage drapes the branches of the weeping Alaskan cedar. Rather narrow and small in size compared to the wild Alaskan cedar, this weeping selection makes a focal point in a yard, park or garden. It is also commonly called weeping Nootka, false cypress or weeping yellow cedar.

Taxonomy

The Alaskan cedar is a gymnosperm, or non-flowering plant that bears cones rather than flowers. It is a member of the cypress family, Cupressaceae, and similar species are grouped into the genus Chamaecyparis. Alaskan cedar is known botanically as Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, and the weeping form is known as cultivar Pendula.

Origins

Alaskan cedar is native to western North America, in the moist coastal and montane woodlands of northwestern California, Oregon and Washington as well as Canada's British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Its habitat ranges from sea level to approximately 4,600 feet. The weeping Alaskan cedar caught the attention of botanists and horticulturists in the wild as being exceptionally beautiful with pendulous sprays of foliage and was assigned the cultivated variety, or cultivar, name Pendula.

Growth Habit

While Alaskan cedar typically reaches heights of 100 feet in its native habitat, "Pendula" is significantly smaller in mature stature, rarely exceeding 30 to 35 feet in height. Its upright habit is overall pyramid-like but with open, irregular branching. The tree's mature width ranges between 8 and 20 feet.

Ornamental Features

The graceful branches of weeping Alaskan cedar bow and droop slightly, accentuating the pendulous sprays of scale-like evergreen foliage. Close inspection of the leaves reveals an emerald green color with undersides of the scales lined with thread-like white markings. The scales are flat and spreading, forming spray-like fans that dangle downward, sometimes revealing glimpses of the reddish brown twig bark. Male and female cones appear on branch tips, only the female cones produce seeds.

Hardiness

Best grown in consistently moist, well-draining soil and with high ambient humidity, weeping Alaskan cedar adapts best to conditions in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 7. It fares better if not exposed to dry, cold winter winds and limited to no more than 4 to 8 hours of direct sun exposure in the warmer parts of its growing range. Western North American gardeners appreciate the use of the Sunset Climate Zones, which show this plant is well-suited in Zones A2, A3, 2 through 6 and 15 through 17. It also does well in climates with less than 100 days of temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit annually.

Keywords: Chamaecyparis, Nootka cedar, weeping evergreens, false cypress, yellow cedar

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," non-profit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He holds a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne.