Incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens)

Between Carver Gym and College Hall Map

A large cedar with deeply fissured grayish bark. The name Calocedrus is Greek for "beautiful cedar." This solitary member of its species is well camouflaged by the plethora of western red cedars on campus, which it closely resembles.

Incense cedar is native to the mountains of Oregon and California. The largest known incense-cedar, which grows in the Marble Mountain Wilderness in Northern California, is 39 feet in circumference and 165 feet high. It a long-lived tree that can reach an age of 500 years.

Native Americans used incense-cedar leaves stomach trouble, as a vapor infusion for colds, and as a food spice. Other uses included bark fiber for basketry or twine and for friction fire-making and fuel. Branches were used for filters or brooms.

Although mainly planted for its landscape properties, incense cedar also has commercial uses. Its wood is relatively decay-resistant, hence is prized for exterior siding. All those pencils you chewed while in grammar school were probably derived from the wood of this fine tree. Finally, aromatic oil is extracted from the wood of C. decurrens (justifying its common name). The oil seems to be highly prized for aromatherapy and, one hopes, other purposes as well.