A modern reference to temperate woody plants, including updated content from this site and much new material, can be found at Trees and Shrubs Online.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (D. Don) Spach

Ootka or Yellow Cypress

Modern name

Cupressus nootkatensis D.Don


Cupressus nootkatensis D. Don; Thuyopsis borealis Carr.

A tree 120 ft high, with a trunk 5 or 6 ft in diameter; as known in cultivation of rather slender, pyramidal form when young, becoming proportionately broader later; the smaller branches two-ranked, more or less pendulous; the ultimate division 116 to 112 in. wide, sometimes terete, more often four-angled, but broader than thick. Leaves in four ranks and of about equal size, 112 to 18 in. long, abruptly and sharply pointed, not often glandular, dark green. Cones 13 to 12 in. across, globose, rather glaucous, with usually four (sometimes six) scales that are furnished in the middle part with a triangular-pointed boss; ripening the second year.

Native of western N. America from Alaska to Oregon; discovered by Menzies in 1793, and introduced about 1853. It is, from a garden point of view, undoubtedly one of the finest and most desirable of the cypresses, growing rapidly, being very hardy, and almost invariably preserving a healthy, vigorous appearance. Nor does it seem fastidious as to soil. Of the other species it is most likely to be confused with Lawson’s cypress, from which it may be distinguished by the following characters: leaves strongly pungent when crushed, with a median ridge and not marked with white on the under-surface; sprays rough to the touch; cone-scales with a prominent point; bark thin, and hence never deeply furrowed, even on old trees. From a distance the Nootka cypress is usually easy to distinguish by reason of its very pendulous sprays.

The Nootka cypress grows well over much of the British Isles but prefers a deep, moist soil and does not thrive on shallow chalky soils or poor peats. The following are a few of the best trees in the British Isles: Leonardslee, Sussex, 89 × 634 ft (1958); Linton Park, Kent, 86 × 714 ft (1965); Eridge Castle, Kent, 97 × 912 ft (1963); Titness Park, Berks., 89 × 712 ft (1957); Westonbirt, Glos., 90 × 10 ft (1965); Broxwood Court, Heref., 95 × 834 ft (1957); Dupplin Castle, Perths., 90 × 714 ft (1957); Castle Leod, Ross and Cromarty, 90 × 912 ft (1966).

cv. ‘Compacta’. – A dwarf form of dense habit.

cv. ‘Lutea’. – Young shoots yellow, finally green. A vigorous and handsome form. Wrongly called ‘Aurea’.

cv. ‘Pendula’. – A very striking variety in which the trunk is erect, the primary branches about horizontal, and the leaf-bearing branchlets hanging as slender streamers from the lower side of the branches in a quite vertical line.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Linton Park, Kent, 80 × 1014 ft and 98 × 814 ft (1984); Bridge Castle, Kent, 82 × 1012 ft (1984); Roche’s Arboretum, Sussex, 88 × 712 ft (1980); Leonardslee, Sussex, 98 × 814 ft (1979); Moss’s Wood, Surrey, 88 × 9 ft (1975); Stourhead, Wilts., 90 × 914 ft (1982); Westonbirt, Glos., the tree mentioned was blown down 1976, the largest now, in Main Drive, is 92 × 834 ft (1980); Batsford, Glos., 90 × 734 ft (1980); Eastnor Castle, Heref., 80 × 912 ft (1981); Holme Lacy, Heref., 75 × 914 ft (1975); Broxwood Court, Heref., 92 × 912 ft (1975); Endsleigh, Devon, 90 × 914 ft (1977); Bella Wray, Cumb., 95 × 814 ft (1976); Leighton Hall, Powys, 82 × 9 ft (1983); Glenlee Park, Kirkcud., 85 × 934 ft (1985); Dawyck, Peebl., 88 × 912 ft (1982); Scone Castle, Perth, 93 × 10 ft (1974); Dunkeld House, Perths., 100 × 9 ft (1981); Dupplin Castle, Perths., four trees, the largest in girth 95 × 10 ft (1983); Glamis Castle, Angus, Pinetum, 92 × 812 ft (1981); Cawdor Castle, Nairn, 92 × 914 ft (1980).

cv. ‘Lutea’. – This is also known as ‘Aurea’. It may be that two or even more clones have been distributed, but none of the cultivars grown under either name can vie with the golden forms of Lawson cypress.

† cv. ‘Nidifera’. – The true ‘Nidifera’ was raised by Rovelli of Pallanza, Lake Maggiore, some time before 1889. However, the original plant was either lost or sold, and its name was usurped by C. lawsoniana ‘Nidiformis’ (see above under C. lawsoniana ‘Tamariscifolia’). The confusion was detected by David Hunt and is discussed by him in Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 99, pp. 361-3 (1974). What is almost certainly the true C. nootkatensis ‘Nidifera’ was found by Humphrey Welch at Mlynany (formerly Malonya), Czechoslovakia, in the arboretum created by Count Ambrozy. It has been propagated. See further in Mr Welch’s Manual of Dwarf Conifers (1979), pp. 163-5 and Identification Plate 5.

cv. ‘Pendula’. – Although attaining a considerable height, this cultivar is ornamental only when young.



Other species in the genus