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Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (A. Murray bis) Parl.

Port Orford Cedar, Lawson False Cypress, Lawson's False Cypress

Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Synonym(s): Cupressus lawsoniana, Retinispora lawsoniana

USDA Symbol: chla

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Large evergreen tree with enlarged base, narrow, pointed, spirelike crown, and horizontal or drooping branches. In the wild, this species can grow to 180 ft. or higher. Under landscape conditions, the height is reduced by at least half. The pyramidal evergreen has a massive, buttressed trunk and short ascending branches. Branchets are frond-like and flattened; deep-green foliage is lacy and fern-like. The bark is silvery brown to reddish brown and divided into rounded ridges by deep furrows.

Port Orford Cedar is adapted to the humid climate of the Pacific Coast with its wet winters and frequent summer fog. Logs of the aromatic wood are exported to Japan for woodenware and toys and for construction of shrines and temples; a special use is for arrow shafts. Many horticultural varieties are grown as ornamentals and shade trees, especially in European countries with moist climates. Varieties include columnar, drooping, and dwarf forms and others with foliage of varying shades, ranging from silvery or steel-blue to bright green, and yellowish. The names honor Port Orford, Oregon, located in the center of the range, and Peter Lawson and his sons, Scottish nurserymen who introduced this species into cultivation in 1854.


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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 180 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Though technically incorrect, the seed cones are often referred to as berries.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr


Native Distribution: Shasta, Humboldt, Del Norte & Siskiyou Cos., CA to w. OR
Native Habitat: Moist slopes & canyons below 4800 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Well-drained, sandy loam.
Conditions Comments: This species thrives in a cool, moist atmosphere where it is protected from drying winds. Too moist a site, however, can encourage a fungus problem. Otherwise the species is relatively free of serious disease or insect problems. The leaves of seedlings and juvenile plants are distinctly different from those of adult trees, being neede-like or awl-shaped.


Description: Seed germination is usually low, due in part to poor seed quality, and also to embryo dormancy. Softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in fall are the principal means of propagation.
Seed Collection: Cones mature in Sept. and Oct. at the end of the first growing season. Each cone scale bears from 1-5 winged seeds.
Seed Treatment: Warm-moist stratify for 30 days then stratify 30 more days at 40 degrees. A cool-moist stratification alone may improve germination also.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Chamaecyparis lawsoniana in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Chamaecyparis lawsoniana in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Chamaecyparis lawsoniana


Record Modified: 2023-03-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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