Nootka Cypress (Callitropsis nootkatensis), formerly Cupressus nootkatensis, Xanthocyparis nootkatensis or Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, is a cypress (Cupressaceae) with a chequered taxonomic and nomenclatural history. This species goes by many common names including Nootka Cypress, Yellow Cypress, and Alaska Cypress. Even though it is not a true cedar, it is also often confusingly called "Nootka Cedar", "Yellow Cedar", "Alaska Cedar", or even "Alaska Yellow Cedar". Its name derives from its discovery on the lands of a First Nation of Canada, the Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, who were formerly referred to as the Nootka.
Nootka Cypress is native to the west coast of North America, from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, south to the Klamath Mountains in northern most California. It is typically occurring on wet sites in mountains, often close to the tree line, but sometimes also at lower altitudes.
Callitropsis nootkatensis is an evergreen tree to 40 m tall, commonly with pendulous branches. The foliage is in flat sprays, with dark green, 3–5 mm long scale-leaves. The cones have 4 (occasionally 6) scales, and resemble the cones of Mexican Cypress (Cupressus lusitanica, another Cupressus species which can show foliage in flat sprays) fairly closely, except being somewhat smaller, typically 10–14 mm diameter; each scale has a pointed triangular bract about 1.5–2 mm long, again similar to other Cupressus and unlike the crescent-shaped, non-pointed bract on the scales ofChamaecyparis cones. The Caren Range on the west coast of British Columbia is home to the oldest Nootka Cypress specimens in the world, with one specimen found to be 1,834 years old (Gymnosperm Database). Currently the largest known yellow cedar is located on a sidehill near Sayward BC on 'A' Branch logging Rd (BC Ministry of Forests). This tree was discovered in 2004 by forest engineer Sean Anderson while laying out a road in the surrounding cutblock. It was later named Sir Daniel Samson by a timber cruiser who came in to measure it. Diameter at base: 12 feet.
It is one of the parents of the hybrid Leyland Cypress; as the other parent, Monterey Cypress, is also in genus Cupressus, the ready formation of this hybrid is a further argument for the placement of the Nootka Cypress close to Cupressus.