Thuja plicata Donn ex D. Don
Western arborvitae, Western red cedar
Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)
USDA Symbol: thpl
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 evergreens 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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Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red , Purple
Bloom Time: Apr
DistributionUSA: 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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse Other: First Nations of the Pacific coast carved totem poles out of this tree. (Hosie)
Larval Host: Rosners Hairstreak (Callophrys rosneri)
PropagationDescription: 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
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
BibliographyBibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Thuja plicata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Thuja plicata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Thuja plicata
MetadataRecord Modified: 2007-01-01
Research By: TWC Staff