Trees to 57 m; trunk to 3.6 m diam. Bark cinnamon brown, fibrous, furrowed and ridged. Branchlet segments mostly 2 or more times longer than wide, broadening distally. Leaves 3--14 mm, including long-decurrent base, rounded abaxially, apex acute (often abruptly), usually mucronate. Pollen cones red-brown to light brown. Seed cones oblong-ovate when closed, red-brown to golden brown, proximal scales often reflexed at cone maturity, median scales then widely spreading to recurved, distal scales erect. Seeds 4 or fewer in cone, 14--25 mm (including wings), light brown. 2 n = 22.
Montane forests; 300--2800 m; Calif., Nev., Oreg.; Mexico in Baja California.
Incense-cedar is an important commercial softwood species. Its wood, exceptionally resistant to decay and highly durable when exposed to weather, is manufactured into many products, including lumber, pencil stock (for which it is the major United States source), fence posts, shakes, and landscape timbers, which are attractive because of punky spots resulting from fungus. The tree is widely grown as a handsome ornamental.