Tree Species of the World's Boreal Forests

Herbs, Shrubs and Other Plants

Terminology | Pictorial

Thuja plicata
Western Red Cedar
Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

A large tree with tapering trunk and a narrow, conical crown of short, spreading branches drooping at ends, growing to a height of 30 - 53 m and a diameter of 0.6 - 2.4 m; often larger.


Western Red Cedar Distinguishing Features - Needles: evergreen; opposite in four rows; 1.5 - 3 mm long; scalelike, sharp-pointed; side pair keeled, flat pair generally without gland-dot; shiny dark green, usually with whitish marks beneath. Bark: reddish-brown, thin, fibrous, and shreddy. Twigs: many-branched in horizontal plane, slightly flattened in fanlike sprays, jointed. Cones: 12 mm long; clustered and upright from short, curved stalk; elliptical, brown; with 10 - 12 paired, thin, leathery, sharp-pointed cone-scales; 6 usually bearing 2 - 3 seeds with 2 wings.


Native to southern Alaska southeast through British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains east to Montana; in moist, slightly acid soils; forming widespread forests with Western Hemlock; also with other conifers.


Because the Western Red Cedar is particularly resistant to rot, it is the chief wood for shingles and one of the most important for siding, utility poles, fenceposts, paneling and outdoor-patio construction. Natives of the Northwest Coast carved their famous totem poles from the trunk.

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