Forest 65 - Lawson Cypress

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Lawson cypress leaves. Photo not from the Arboretum Lawson cypress seed cones. Photo not from the Arboretum

Other common names

Port Orford cedar, Port Orford white cedar, Oregon cedar.

Origin of the species name

Chamaecyparisis from Greek for dwarf or creeping cypress; lawsoniana is named after Charles Lawson, an English nurseryman.



Date planted

November 2010


Trees of this species should attain full height in 250 to 300 years and possibly live for more than 500 years.

Lawson cypress tree. Photo not from the Arboretum

General description 

This is a tall evergreen conifer with a single trunk that can become buttressed on large trees. The bark is dark red-brown and deeply fissured. The branches are curved down and the leaves, which range from light to dark shiny green, are drooping. Height 30m Spread 15m

Natural distribution and habitat  

The species is native to the west coast of the USA in Oregon and California where it grows in coniferous forests in coastal mountain valleys and often along streams.

Conservation status

Although very common in horticulture it is classified as a threatened species.  As a result of the heavy use of this species for timber and the accidental introduction of a fungal disease into its , its natural populations have steadily declined over the last 150 years.  By gaining access to previously inaccessible areas vehicles are further spreading the disease and control of access is needed.  Also, the greater use of plantation forestry is needed to replace harvesting natural stands.

Planting pattern

Planted in a regular square grid pattern.


The whitish-yellow wood has the aroma of ginger and is highly valued in Japan for building shrines, temples and other traditional buildings. In the past it had many diverse uses from ship-building to flooring to match sticks. It has become the most expensive wood harvested in North America. It is very widely used in cultivation and The Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit has been won by 15 different cultivars, including slim, dwarf, silver or golden foliage varieties.

Further reading

Farjon, A (2010) A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Brill.