Yellow Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)
Found only on the Pacific Coast of North America, the Yellow Cedar is at its best in the mountainous coastal forests of British Columbia. It seeks out high altitude sites and often grows to tree line. A medium-sized tree, the Yellow Cedar is commonly about 25m in height with a broad flared base, from 60cm to over 1m in diameter.
The bark is thin and greyish brown in colour and the leaves are lacy and pendulous. A tough, solid and very durable tree, the Yellow Cedar is noted for its very slow growth and great longevity. Its natural oily extractives make it highly decay resistant and strongly aromatic when freshly cut.
Yellow Cedar was named nootkatensis in honour of Nootka Sound, a magnificent body of water bordered by mountains on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It was there that the Yellow Cedar was first sighted by Scottish botanist Archibald Menzies while sailing on board Captain Vancouver’s ship, Discovery.
Apperance and Properties
The wood of the Yellow Cedar is characterized by its distinctive and uniform yellow colour. The narrow band of sapwood is very similar in colour to the heartwood. The wood is fine in texture and has a straight grain. When green, the wood has a pungent sulphur odour. Yellow Cedar exhibits notable durability and longevity, being resistant to decay, insect attack and, in salt water applications, to marine borers.
It is considerably harder than most commercial softwoods and therefore has excellent strength and wear properties as well as good impact resistance.
The appearance, durability and easy working characteristics of Yellow Cedar make it suitable for all types of joinery and carpentry where quality is a factor. The wood’s uniform colour and fine finish are appropriate for doors and windows, decorative panelling and custom joinery in both residential and commercial buildings. The comparative scarcity of Yellow Cedar adds an element of prestige.
In boat-building, Yellow Cedar has a long history of use dating back to the native Indian culture of Canada’s west coast. Today the durability, structural integrity and impact resistance of Yellow Cedar is valued in the construction of fresh- and salt-water craft from racing shells to pleasure cruisers. The wood’s strength freedom from twist, and ease of machining make it well suited to the manufacture of oars and paddles.
Yellow cedar can also be used for flooring and bridge decking because of its strength, hardness and excellent wear resistance. It stands up to traffic and load impact without forming ridges or splitting. Because of its smooth-wearing properties and weather resistance, it is sometimes used for seating in outdoor sports facilities.
Yellow Cedar’s resistance to decay and corrosion also give it practical applications in industry for the manufacture of tanks, flumes, and chemical containers.