Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Thuja plicata

Western red cedar, Western arborvitae, Canoe cedar

Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Thuja plicata (Western red cedar)
Cressler, Alan
Western arborvitae or western red cedar is a narrow, pyramidal to squat-statured tree, buttressed at the base, tapering upward to a simple or divided apex. It usually maintains its lower branches. The evergreenís typical height is 50-75 ft., but it can grow to 200 ft. The aromatic foliage is bright green and scale-like, forming horizontal sprays which bronzes to crimson-purple in winter. Large to very large tree with tapering trunk, buttressed at base, and with a narrow, conical crown of short, spreading branches drooping at ends; foliage is resinous and aromatic.

Particularly resistant to rot, Western Red Cedar is the chief wood for shingles and one of the most important for siding, utility poles, fenceposts, paneling, outdoor-patio construction, and boatbuilding. Indians of the Northwest Coast carved their famous totem poles and split lumber for their lodges from this durable softwood. The name Canoe Cedar refers to the special war canoes hollowed out of giant trunks. Indians also used the wood for boxes, batons, and helmets and the fibrous inner bark for rope, roof thatching, blankets, and cloaks. The largest Western Red Cedar measures 21 (6.4 m) in diameter, ranking second only to the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) among native trees; however, this species is not among the tallest.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf: Green
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Purple
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AK , CA , ID , MT , OR , WA
Canada: AB , BC
Native Distribution: S. AK, s. to n. CA & n.w. MT
Native Habitat: Moist flats; river banks; swamps

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist, slightly acidic soils.
Conditions Comments: Western red cedar is a very useful, ornamental conifer. It responds nicely to pruning and is sometimes used as hedge material. It has a slow to medium growth rate, is susceptible to bagworm and heart rot, and is pH adaptable.


Use Other: First Nations of the Pacific coast carved totem poles out of this tree. (Hosie)
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Rosners Hairstreak (Callophrys rosneri)

Last Update: 2015-07-15