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Trees of Yosemite (1932, 1948) by Mary Curry Tresidder


[Cypress Family]

Incense Cedar

Libocedrus decurrens Torr.

Incense Cedar Tree
Incense Cedar Tree
Incense Cedar Cones
Incense Cedar Cones

The Incense Cedar belongs to the cypress family; it is not akin to the cedar of Lebanon, nor is it a redwood, although the rich cinnamon coloring of mature trees often leads the visitor to the floor of Yosemite Valley to insist that he has been seeing many redwoods. This latter name is properly applied to the Sequoia, and particularly to the Sequoia sempervirens, or Coast Redwood, which is not found in the Yosemite region.

The young Incense Cedar is a strikingly symmetrical tree when it grows in open places. There are several such trees near Yosemite Lodge, and also along the edge of the meadow near the entrance to the Ahwahnee. Pyramidal in form, with branches almost reaching the ground, they taper to a point as if they had been regularly clipped. In young trees the bark is a purplish-red, with a silvery sheen on the loosened scales; in older cedars the bark thickens and becomes deeply furrowed, taking on a reddish-brown hue that glows in the sunlight.

They reach the goodly age of three to six or seven hundred years. Old trees in forest glades may be from three to six feet in diameter, the shaft being free of branches for thirty or forty feet and attaining a height of seventy to ninety feet, with one or two massive limbs thrust out in an irregular outline.

The range of the Incense Cedar is from 2,000 to 7,000 feet. One glorious stand is in the Lost Valley at the upper end of Little Yosemite, where it mingles with Sugar Pine and an occasional Red Fir.

Its yellowish-green foliage is composed of flat sprays with a series of flat, scale-like leaves, one overlapping the next in such a way as to seem jointed. The sprays occur in pairs. Ovulate and staminate flowers grow on different twigs of the same branch, appearing in late autumn or early winter. The latter shower the tree with gold at a time when they vie with the crystal blossoms of the snow on barer boughs.

The small, pendent cone is urn-shaped while it is green. As it matures, the wings roll back from the central partition, freeing the ripened seeds. There are usually two of these winged seeds on each side. They drift down in great numbers during the month of September, especially in a high wind, and make a red-brown carpet around the cedars. The cone usually clings to the tree for several months.



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