Cedars of Yreka

A few days ago we were sitting at the patio table and watching the trees in the backyard swaying gently in the breeze. We noticed puffs of what looked like yellow smoke coming off the Deodar cedar.

It was pollen, of course.

Here’s what the estimable Sunset Western Garden Book had to say under the entry for Cedrus (true cedars including C. deodara):

Male catkins produce prodigious amounts of pollen that may cover you with yellow dust on windy day

3rd printing May 1989, p. 272

I’ve had to hose off the table twice more since then!

According to botanists there are only four true cedars. One is this species, C. deodara, also known as the Himalayan cedar (its native range). The famous Cedars of Lebanon (C. libani), mentioned in the Bible, are also in the genus Cedrus. The other two are also Mediterranean, the Atlas cedar (C. atlantica) and the Cyprus cedar (C. brevifolia). True cedars are members of the pine family (Pinaceae).

European naturalists encountering new plants in the Americas named them with systems imported from overseas. There are no true cedars in the Western Hemisphere but there are cedar-like trees that were tagged with the name. Ubiquitous in California forests is the incense-cedar or Calocedrus decurrens, a member of the cypress family (Cupressaceae). We have one in our yard. Heading north into Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska you find the widespread Western red cedar (Thuja plicata), also in the cypress family. If, like us, you have an arborvitae among your plantings, that’s a relative—Thuja occidentalis.

Back here at home we moved the patio table from outside to under the overhang to keep it free of pollen. Tree pollens are particularly fine and dry compared to flower pollens and are thus easily spread far and wide. Although Deodar cedar pollen is not classified as an allergen, I’m convinced that my runny nose, itchy eyes, and hacking cough last week had something to do with all that yellow stuff floating around my back yard.

Lately the days have been beautiful and smoke-free, so I’m not complaining!

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