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Incense Cedar - More Familiar Than You Think

Updated on November 8, 2011
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

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A Tree with a Past

An Indian legend says that a tribe out west wanted fire.  They had heard rumors that another tribe and found the secret.  The chief was determined that his tribe should possess this power.  So he commissioned one of his warriors to sneak over and steal the fire.  He did but decided that he wanted the power for himself.  The chief realized what happened when he saw the fire in another part of the land.  He began a furious search for his treasonous warrior.  When he found him, he searched him all over but couldn’t find it because the warrior had hidden it in his flute.  When he thought the chief was gone, he pulled the fire out and wrapped it in a bundle.  The chief snuck in and looked at the bundle that held the magic he so craved.  He cautiously approached it and nudged.  In a flash the bundle burst open and the fire shot up in the sky.  The chief watched as it settled in the sky and became the sun.  He hung his head in sorrow and went back home without the magic of fire.  The people who originally had the fire came and took what little fire was left and hid it in two trees: the buckeye and the incense cedar.  Because of this, the tribe only used those two trees to build their fires that warmed their homes and cooked their foods.

I do believe that there are legends and myths for all plant life and even the animals. This one really intrigued me. As I began to research the incense cedar I discovered that this is one of the most popular and used trees and yet you will find less information about it than most other trees.

The incense cedar is native to North American and specifically the west coast. You’ve probably seen this tree a dozen times and never knew it. It is popular in landscaping because of its attractive limps and its ability to be a strong windbreaker. It has a sap that is fragrant which is where the tree gets its name.

It can grow up to 100 feet high in the wild and a still impressive 60 feet high in a landscaped yard. But despite its extreme heights, it only gets about 12 feet wide. It can live anywhere from 500 years to 1000. What tales these trees could tell if they could talk.

They grow fast for a tree with up to 2 feet per year. Because of this their wood is not as strong as oak and therefore not used for the same purposes. But would you believe me that you could be holding a piece of incense cedar right now? If not you, your child who is sitting in school might be. The incense cedar is the preferred wood source for pencils. It is strong enough not to splinter and split yet soft enough to be sharpened easily with handheld pencil sharpeners. Pick up a pencil and you’re holding a part of the American heritage.

They are not just used for pencils. Incense cedar is also a great wood to resist decay and weather damage. Because of this it is prized by builders for decks, siding, fencing, and other exterior building projects. You’ve more than likely have some incense cedar just a few feet from you right now.

The incense cedar is a tree with strong characteristics and popularity. But it lives its live quietly and lets the other trees take the spotlight. It knows that as long as students continue to break pencils during those grueling final exams and people want some remodeling done on their homes, it will continue to be in demand and loved by millions.


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    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Sweet cedar. I love trees, they're so beautiful, and the home to much life.