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Thuja plicata

Thuja plicata Donn ex D. Don

Western arborvitae, Western red cedar

Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Synonym(s):

USDA Symbol: thpl

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

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 evergreen’s 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 among native trees; however, this species is not among the tallest.

 

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Plant Characteristics

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

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Purple
Bloom Time: Apr

Distribution

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: Moist , Wet
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.

Benefit

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

Propagation

Description: Cuttings taken in Dec. or Jan. and treated with hormone root very well. Western cedar is also easily grown from layers or seeds. Occasional dormant seeds are found which require stratification.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Stratify at 34-41 degrees for 30-60 days. No treatment may give satisfactory results.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

Region:AGCPAKAWCBEMPGPHIMWNCNEWMVE
Status: FAC FAC UPL FAC
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA

Bibliography

Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Thuja plicata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Thuja plicata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Thuja plicata

Metadata

Record Last Modified: 2007-01-01
Research By: TWC Staff

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