Incense Cedar tree identification

The Incense Cedar Calocedrus decurrent, a conifer native to California, was introduced to Britain in 1853. It is not a ‘true’ cedar; it gets its name from having wood that smells similar to the ‘true’ cedars – Cedar of Lebanon, Deodar and Atlas Cedar. The leaves generate an aromatic scent when crushed. The tree is grown in large parks, gardens and by roads.

Incense Cedar tree Identification – narrow spire-shape, scale-like leaves, small flask-like cones, red stringy bark. The scale-like leaves can be confused with the Lawson Cypress or Western Red Cedar but the cones are different.


Incense Cedar tree
Incense Cedar leaves

The leaves are in the form of over-lapping scales that are close to the shoot until they reach the pointed tips.

Incense Cedar flat sprays

The flat sprays of shoots hang down like this. The long scale-like leaves that cover the shoots are different from those of the Lawson Cypress or the Western Red Cedar.

Incense Cedar bark

The bark is red and stringy

Incense Cedar cone

The cones are like small ornamental flasks (August). The Western Red Cedar has flask-like cones but they are about half the size.

Incense Cedar cones

The cones hang from the end of shoots, unlike Western Red Cedar cones which stand up in large groups. Photo taken in August. The cones turn red-brown when ripe in October.

Incense Cedar cones, scales and seeds

The cones are unusual in having 4 seed scales, 2 outer and 2 inner. The outer scales are fertile and each has a seed attached. The 2 central seed scales are fused together. Two winged seeds can be seen between the inner and outer scales of the cone at the left in this photo. A single seed can be seen in the cone at the right.

Incense Cedar cone and seeds

The cone opens up to release the winged seeds in October. The seed is wind-dispersed.