Common Name(s): Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Nootka Cypress
Scientific Name: Cupressus nootkatensis*
*This species has undergone many reclassifications, see note in comments
Distribution: Northwest coast of North America
Tree Size: 100-120 ft (30-37 m) tall, 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 31 lbs/ft3 (495 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .42, .50
Janka Hardness: 580 lbf (2,580 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 11,100 lbf/in2 (76.6 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,420,000 lbf/in2 (9.79 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 6,310 lbf/in2 (43.5 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 2.8%, Tangential: 6.0%, Volumetric: 9.2%, T/R Ratio: 2.1
Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a light yellow. Sapwood is a similar whitish/pale yellow and isn’t distinct from the heartwood. Color tends to darken with age upon exposure to light, (though when left exposed outdoors it weathers to a uniform gray).
Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight, though sometimes wavy, with a uniform medium to fine texture.
Endgrain: Resin canals absent; earlywood to latewood transition gradual, color contrast medium; tracheid diameter small to medium.
Rot Resistance: Reported to be durable to very durable regarding decay resistance, and also resistant to most insect attacks.
Workability: Easy to work with both hand and machine tools, though pieces with wavy grain may produce tearout during planing. Holds paint well. Stains, glues, and finishes well.
Odor: Alaskan Yellow Cedar has a distinct scent that is similar to raw potatoes.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Alaskan Yellow Cedar has been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Supply of this wood is limited. Expect prices to be high for a domestic species, particularly for clear pieces free of knots.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
Common Uses: Carving, boatbuilding, siding, flooring, decking, outdoor furniture, musical instruments (flutes, soundboards on guitars), boxes and chests, and various utility/construction applications.
Comments: Alaskan Yellow Cedar has more or less always had the species label nootkatensis (so named for the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Canada). But the genus of the tree has been less clearly defined—it’s perhaps one of the woods with the most often-changed and reclassified botanical name. Alaskan Yellow Cedar was initially placed in the Cupressus genus, and later in the Chamaecyparis genus (where it had remained for roughly 160 years). Recent reclassifications have moved it from Chamaecyparis to a newly created genus named Xanthocyparis, and then to Callitropsis, and finally back into Cupressus.
- Gowen Cypress (Cupressus goveniana)
- Leyland Cypress (Cupressus x leylandii)
- Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
- Mexican Cypress (Cupressus lusitanica)
- Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)