Foliage Friday: Port Orford-cedar or False Cypress

All of my Foliage Fridays from here on out are going to be plants from our yard here in Portland, until I have a name for every single plant in this yard. Today’s plant is this guy:

I believe that it is a Port Orford-cedar (aka Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). This tree is native to Oregon (mostly Southern Oregon and Northern California). Port Orford is a city on the coast of Oregon, near where this tree was initially discovered.

Its cones are tiny – maybe a centimeter in size at most

They start out like tiny blue-green balls…
…and mature into itty bitty cones.

This tree also goes by the name Lawson Cypress or False Cypress. These names are very confusing because this tree is neither a Cedar (Cedrus) nor a Cypress (Cupressus): it’s a Chamaecyparis. Chamaecyparis is a genus in the Cupressaceae (Cypress) family, so it’s most closely related to Cypress, not Cedar.

To further confuse matters, though, this tree looks most similar to the Western Red-cedar. In fact, when I uploaded my photos to, it told me my tree was a Western Red-cedar (Thuja plicata). The way to distinguish between Western Red-cedar and Port Orford-cedar/False Cypress is to look at the underside of the leaves. Port Orford-cedar has a distinct X, whereas Western Red-cedar has what is described as “butterfly” markings.

leaves, comparison
Image from Oregon State
Distinct X

How cool is that! A distinct “X” – therefore Port Orford-cedar, not Western Red-cedar!

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