Port Orford cedar (Chamaeocyparis Lawsoniana)

East wall of Highland Lounge Map

This tall, slender stalwart of many gardens and arboretums throughout Europe and North America has a surprisingly narrow native range - the coastal fog belt between central Oregon and northern California. It is named for Port Orford, Oregon, near Cape Blanco. Formerly it was an important economic resource both here and in Japan, but its value has been diminished considerably by a root disease (Phytophthora) that originated in Oregon in the 1950s and has wrecked havoc with both wild and cultivated trees ever since. (For instance, a magnificent specimen growing in Bellingham's Bayview Cemetery succumbed to the disease only last year - 2006).

There are many cultivars of Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana - Jacobson describes over 50. Golden varieties seem to be particularly popular. Ours appear to be a grayish-blue form, perhaps the popular 'Triompf von Boskoop' (a wild guess), which originated in Holland at the end of the 19th century.

In its natural habitat the Port Orford cedar can attain enormous size - over 200 ft. in height and seven or more ft. in diameter. As a matter of no particular importance, this tree acquired its species name, not in honor of a famous botanist or explorer, but from a Scottish nursery (Peter Lawson & Sons, Edinburgh) that disseminated the tree vigorously, and one hopes profitably, during and after the 1850s. Most of the cultivars on the market today originated in Europe.