Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Calocedrus decurrens

 I have been puzzled a few days by the identity of a tree living on the shores of Lake Tahoe that is new to me. I've finally determined its species as Calocedrus decurrens, or California incense cedar. It is a tall, straight tree with deeply furrowed bark. Now I can turn my attention to others and attempt to learn them as well. An example of the Incense Cedar  stands in the midst of forest companions in the image above and the deeply furrowed bark is shown in the photo below.

Woodworkers will know this wood as a traditional source for the wood for making wooden pencils, though to take a tree of this size and make pencils seems absurd.

Make, fix and create.


  1. Incense cedars have the unusual property of spreading their pollen in late winter or early spring. For those who have allergies, this leads to the very odd phenomenon of allergy attacks when there is still snow on the ground - not usually considered to be allergy season. (Occurs in Yosemite valley, for example.)

    See http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_1/libocedrus/decurrens.htm

  2. That's just what I need, a few more months of allergies. I have gotten pretty good at telling different tree types since I cut a lot of wood for heating my garage and cabin.

  3. The ultimate absurdity is you keep trimming the pencil until there is no Incense Cedar left. See how wasteful and lacking in wisdom, hands can be? Bet you will blame it on the brain! ;-)

  4. The cheap lead they put in pencils, means that you can sharpen and then have to sharpen again. So the waste of wood cannot be blamed on the hands. Sharpening with a knife or chisel gives more intelligent results.

    Einstein said "My pencil and I are smarter than I am." But that was in a better day for lead and cedar.

    I'm not blaming anything on the brain, but I do wish they would use better lead.

  5. We agree on pencil lead, although unless doing mathematics, I use a ballpoint pen.

    Think the quality of lead in pencils first dropped in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Same with pencilhead erasers a few years later. The wood quality of pencils strikes me as having dropped, as well.

    I have trimmed pencils with a knife before, but a chisel? Forgive me for having been born tool clueless, but a chisel strikes me as an odd tool for sharpening a pencil.

  6. A chisel is just another sharp edge and works well. Just point the chisel and pencil "pointed" away from your body as you sharpen.

  7. Thank you.

    Probably saw my grandfather put chisel to pencil as a boy, but forgot. Was too busy filing away fond memories of the "expletive" events of my grandfather, as his hammer sometimes targeted fingers, rather than deftly whacking the nailhead.

    While here, I must mention; late in life, my grandfather built a house-size workshop, with windows, on his small farm behind his house. As I recall, he did it alone. It took a while.

    He had Wisdom of the Hands and a whole lot of smarts. They seemed to go together, so when I disagree with you...well, let's say I can see your side too.