Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro'

Common Name: Lawson's cypress 
Type: Needled evergreen
Family: Cupressaceae
Zone: 5 to 10
Height: 6.00 to 16.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest


Easily grown in average, moist but well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Avoid wet, poorly-drained soils. Shelter from strong winds. Major pruning is rarely needed but 'Wissel's Saguaro' can be lightly pruned to help maintain and enhance its unique branching pattern.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, commonly known as Lawson's cypress or Port Orford cedar, is a tall, narrow-pyramidal, scaly-leaved, evergreen conifer with short spreading branches and flattened twigs. It is the tallest member of the cypress family. In its native habitat, it will grow over time to 110-175' (sometimes to 200' or more) tall and to 4-6' in diameter, but usually much shorter (to 40-60' tall) in cultivation. This tree has a very small native range; primarily being found on seaward slopes in a coastal belt along Pacific Coast mountain ranges from Coos Bay in southwestern Oregon to the Klamath River in northwestern California, with isolated additional populations in northern California near the Trinity Mountains and Mount Shasta. It sometimes grows in pure stands, but also is found growing with western red cedar, grand fir, western hemlock and Sikta spruce. Tiny, scale-like, bright green to blue green leaves (to 1/16" long) with silver marks beneath are pressed against the branchlets. Spherical female cones (1/4 to 3/8" diameter) are green maturing to brown. Oblong male cones are smaller, reddish-brown and oblong. Thick, silvery-brown to reddish-brown bark is furrowed and ridged. Wood is hard and durable. Although the supply is limited, lumber from this tree is in great demand.

Genus name comes from Greek chamai meaning dwarf or to the ground and kyparissos meaning cypress tree.

The specific epithet lawsoniana honors Charles Lawson (1794-1873), a Scottish nurseryman.

The common name Port Orford cedar (unfortunately misleading because this is not a cedar) refers to the discovery of this tree in 1854 near the area now occupied by the town of Port Orford, Oregon.

'Wissel's Saguaro' features a narrow, upright growth habit with twisting, irregular, upswept branches and congested, dark blue-green foliage. The irregular branches are reminiscent of the arms of a Saguaro cactus. Plants will reach 6-8' tall in around 10 years, with ultimate heights stretching upwards of 16'. This cultivar has a moderate growth rate of around 6-8" per year. It was discovered as a witch's broom on a specimen of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wisselii' in 1962 by J.B.A. Dekker of Mijdrecht, Holland but was not named or mass propagated until the 1980s.


Phytophthora lateralis is a fungus which has spread through the native range of this tree at a rapid rate. It causes an often-fatal root rot disease which poses a significant threat to the survival of the species.


Sculptural specimen for rock gardens, courtyard gardens, patios, and Asian-inspired gardens. Not suitable as a screen due to the irregular and open branching pattern of this cultivar.