On a superficial level, cedar and cypress trees resemble each other. However, they are two distinct kinds of trees that are not very closely related taxonomically. They share the subclass Pinidae, but are located in different orders. Cypress belongs to the genus Taxiodium located in the family Cupressaceae within the order Cupressales. Many trees that are called cedars actually refer to mixed assortment of genera that are scattered throughout the families of Pinidae. "True" cedars of the genus Cedrus are located in the family Pinaceae within the order Pinales.
The cypress and cedar trees have similar physical appearances, which contributes to the confusion between them. They are both tall, straight trees with gray bark and green scale leaves. In addition, timber from both the cedar and the cypress tree is used in the same applications. Both of these trees are commonly sold as lumber suitable for furniture, flooring and natural outdoor siding.
The cedar tree is actually an evergreen. Its natural range stretches across the world, and cedar is adapted to many diverse climates. The cypress tree is deciduous and is mainly found in Southern wetlands. The cypress will sometimes spend long periods of time flooded well above its base level. Its root system is well-adapted for this lifestyle, having oddly shaped "knees" that project out of the water.
Uses of Cedar Trees
Cedar trees are best known for their aromatic lumber, as the tree produces a type of oil that gives cedar timber its strong smell. People generally enjoy this smell, and it has the added advantage of being an insect deterrent. The oil is sometimes extracted for use in scents and incense. Cedar timber is also a natural alternative to chemically treated wood for outdoor uses such as house siding and decking. Because cedar is so naturally straight grained, it warps less than other woods and the aromatic oil acts as a preservative, making sealant finishes optional.
Uses of Cypress Trees
Like cedar, cypress wood is also popular for outdoor applications. It produces a different oil, cypressine, which has a preservative function. This oil does not have as strong of a scent as cedar oil, which is an advantage to people who have allergies to cedar oil. Cypress wood is also naturally straight grained and is a bit denser than cedar wood. Cypress tree plantings are useful in agriculture. They are often planted as a protective barrier to absorb agricultural runoff. There is a movement to plant cypress trees across the South to facilitate the reclamation of wetland habitat