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What is Calocedrus?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul

Calocedrus is a genus of tree containing several coniferous species that are part of the Incense-cedar family. The three trees included in the calocedrus genus are the calocedrus decurrens, calocedrus formosana and calocedrus macrolepis. Some of the features of the trees include a soft wood that’s resistant to decay, overlapping leaves and cones that have only two or three scales that are erect. In the past, the wood of two of the species was often used for building coffins due to its resistance to decay and strong scent.

The calocedrus decurrens tree — commonly known as the California Incense cedar tree — is found in the United States as well as Mexico. As the name suggests, it is commonly found in California along with other states such as Oregon and Nevada. The three can grow up to 200 feet (60 meters) in height and the trunk can sometimes have a diameter as large as 9 feet (3 meters). Of the three species included in the calocedrus genus the decurrens is the most commonly seen.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The other two species of calocedrus are found in Asia and were the most sought after for wood uses. One of these species is the formosana, which is found in Taiwan. It is nowhere near as big as the decurrens and only grows to a maximum of 100 feet (30 meters) high and is relatively rare.

The calocedrus macrolepis — sometimes known as Chinese Incense cedar — is also found in Asia and is usually seen in China. It can also be found in Vietnam and some areas of Thailand. It’s around the same size as the other Asian species and doesn't reach the heights of the American species. Like the formosana species, it is rare to find in the wild. The two Asian species also have similar cones and leaves.

There is some debate amongst botanists as to whether the two Asian trees are actually different species or whether the Formosans is just a variation of the macrolepis. This is due to the similar leaves and cones of both species. The main difference between the cones of the two species is that macrolepis cones have a shorter stem.

Aside from the wood of the trees, some are also used for ornamental purposes. For example, the decurrens species is commonly found in gardens that have a cool climate. Trees of this species that are grown in cool climates usually have a crown that isn’t found in wild examples.

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