Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)
PHYLUM Coniferophyta
CLASS Pinopsida
ORDER Pinales
FAMILY Cupressaceae
Western Redcedar is another of the dominant trees in westside forests of the Pacific Northwest. These trees can grow to huge sizes, over 60 meters tall with a trunk diameter of over 4 meters. Only redwoods are larger among North American trees. The largest cedars are over 1000 years old.
This species is especially prominent in areas of moist soils, for example along water courses, because it tolerates a wider range of conditions than some other conifers. It also grows in drier soils, mixed with Douglas-firs and pines, from the lowlands to middle elevations in the mountains.
The flat sprays of needles of the cypress family Cupressaceae are very different looking from the more familiar cylindrical needles of the pine family Pinaceae. There are no other native cypresses in the Puget Sound lowlands, so the cedar is easily distinguished from the Douglas-firs, hemlocks, pines, firs, and spruces with which it may be found. The trunk of large trees is fluted, with stringy bark that comes loose in long strips.
Redcedar cones are easily recognized because they are quite small, about a centimeter long, and with only about 10 scales that spread wide when the cone ripens. The seeds are winged, adapted to be dispersed by wind, and each tree produces thousands of them
Older trees produce a chemical called thujaplicin that is a natural fungicide, so products made from the wood resist rotting for a very long time. Cedar chests (often just lined with redcedar) are valued as places to store clothing, as the tree produces aromatic oils that deter moths and carpet beetles.
This species played a very important part in the lives of Pacific Northwest native people. The bark was used for a great variety of uses, including clothing, rope, mats, and baskets. The long-lasting wood was used for canoes, houses, totem poles, and an amazing array of implements and tools that were used in all aspects of their lives. In fact, the importance of redcedar has been used to define a Northwest cultural area, and it is still much valued.
Although a large, slow-growing tree, Western Redcedar has long been in cultivation, and a number of horticultural varieties have been developed to appeal to the tastes of gardeners and landscapers. For example, the young trees (called giant arborvitae) grow rapidly and are used as visual screens at the edge of properties.

Western Red Cedar

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Western Red Cedar
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Trunk and bark of Western Red Cedar
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Foliage of Western red Cedar
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Scientific Name: Thuja plicata
Other Common Names: Western redcedar, great western arborvitae, canoe cedar, pacific red cedar, shinglewood, giant red cedar

Foliage: Needled Evergreen
Height: 50-60 feet (130-200 feet in the wild)
Spread: 15-20 feet
Shape: Pyramidal
Growth Characteristics: Slow-growing

The Western Red Cedar is very commonly found in the wild in the northwestern United States and Canada. In cultivation, it can be effectively used as a hedge or screen. Foliage is glossy, green and scale-like and is aromatic. The bark is reddish brown and sheds. Foliage may turn brownish bronze in winter. Can be grown close to buildings and in open spaces, it can be an excellent skyline tree. Cultivars include ‘Atrovirens’, ‘Emerald Cone’, ‘Zebrina’, ‘Stoneham Gold’, ‘Green Giant’, and ‘Fastigiata’.

Plant Needs
Zone: 5-9
Light: Full sun to partial or light shade
Moisture: Prefers humidity
Soil Type: Moist, mulched, acid to alkaline

Fertilize with formulations that promote woody, strong growth rather than excessive foliar growth. Can be sheared (new growth will sprout from the old wood if it is severely pruned in the spring).

Can be affected by bagworms, spider mites, leaf miner, and deer. Branches can also be easily damaged by heavy snows.

Thuja | Western Red Cedar

Thuja plicata, also known as Western Red Cedar, is a conifer that looks similar to Green Leylandii and grows almost as fast. It has dark, olive-green leaves that can turn bronze in winter. The foliage has a pleasant, fruity fragrance when the leaves are crushed. Thuja plicata can be cut back into old wood and will re-shoot.

Why plant Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar)?

Fast growing
Good for screening and all year round privacy
Acts as a windbreak
Will re-shoot from old wood
Scented foliage
Grows in any soil (apart from water-logged)
Grows in sunny or shady areas

How far apart should I plant Thuja plicata?

You should plant between 60 and 100cm (2-3ft) apart. If you want the gaps between the plants to fill in quickly to form a hedge, then plant at 60cm (2ft) apart. If you are happy to wait a bit longer, then plant at 1m (3ft) apart because you will get just as good a hedge, it will just take about a year or so longer for the plants to join together to form a hedge.

What type of soil does a Thuja plicata hedge need?

Thuja will grow in any free-draining soil (i.e. any soil that is not water-logged). It will even grow on shallow chalk soils.

How tall will Thuja plicata grow?

You can keep a Thuja hedge at any height and as narrow as 45cm (18in). It withstands clipping very well. Remember, if you keep a hedge at 2-3m (6-8ft) tall (or lower), it is much easier to trim than if you let it grow taller. If left untrimmed, Western Red Cedar will grow up to 20-35 metres tall (70-120ft) and makes a fabulous specimen tree – but you obviously need a lot of space for this. Specimen trees can be seen in the gardens of many stately homes such as Stourhead and Bicton Park..

How often would I need to trim a Thuja plicata hedge?

Trim your hedge once or twice a year. Late spring/early summer is the best time to trim the hedge. If you think it needs another trim, then trim again in late summer/early autumn but don’t leave it too late before the winter – allow some time for re-growth before the winter cold.

How fast does Western Red Cedar grow?

Fast (4/5). It has a growth rate of between 60 and 75cm (2’ to 2’6”) a year given ideal conditions for growth. Western Red Cedar is not quite as fast as Green Leylandii but is still a quick growing conifer.

The many varieties of Thuja plicata

There are a number of different varieties of such as ‘Atrovirens’, ‘Gelderland’, ‘Excelsa’ and ‘Martin’, all of which grow quickly and form a good hedge.

There is also a variegated variety, called Thuja plicata ‘Zebrina’ which is slower growing but still forms a good hedge. Please give us a call if you are interested in this variety.

All varieties of Thuja plicata with green foliage are the best as fast-growing hedging plants along with Thuja occidentalis ‘Brabant’ which grows at a similar rate.

Alternatives to Western Red Cedar

Green Leylandii is similar to Western Red Cedar and grows slightly faster, as a result, it is usually cheaper.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Brabant’ is very similar to Thuja plicata. It has a similar rate of growth and forms a dense evergreen hedge.

Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a quick-growing, evergreen shrub – so if you don’t want a conifer, Laurel is the fastest growing evergreen hedging plant.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’ is a slower growing conifer that needs very little maintenance. It does not need clipping on the sides as it never grows very wide, however, you can prune the tops once a year to keep the hedge to the height you want.

Thuja Plicata ‘Martin’: Fast-Growing Hedge

Thuja Plicata Martin

Thuja Plicata Martin also known as Western Red Cedar is an evergreen, coniferous tree that forms a beautiful, compact hedge. Its glossy leaves may be green or dark green and smell good. The fruits produced look like little cones.

This variety of Thuja retains a slender shape with a width of not more than one meter. This is a very important aspect in hedging where lateral space is generally limited. It can be cut back into old wood and will surely re-root.

Growing Thuja Plicata Martin

Thuja Plicata Martin is characterized by fast, upright growth habit. This plant is suitable for a hedge. It produces a pleasant scent when you rub the leaves against something or between your fingers. This variety can achieve a growth rate of 40-60cm a year when grown under optimal conditions.

You can keep the hedge at any height. If you keep the hedge at height of 2-3cm or lower, it will be much easier to trim than when you allow it to grow taller. If it’s not trimmed, Western Red Cedar can reach a height of 20-35m and makes a wonderful specimen tree, but you will obviously need more space for this.

Why you should grow Thuja Plicata Martin

Thuja Plicata Martin has many benefits that make it an excellent hedge. Here are a few advantages of growing this Thuja species for hedging purposes:

  • Maintains its evergreen color throughout the year
  • Fast-growing conifer
  • Suitable for screening and provides all year privacy
  • It is an excellent windbreak
  • It is hardy in nature
  • Re-shoots from old wood
  • Its leaves produce a sweet fragrance when crushed or pressed between fingers
  • Grows well in many types of soils except waterlogged soils
  • Grows well in shady or sunny areas
  • Requires little maintenance
  • Forms a beautiful, compact hedge
  • The variety maintains a slender shape which is ideal for hedging purposes
  • Makes an excellent windbreak
  • Makes a great nesting site for birds

Where to grow

Thuja Plicata Martin can grow in many types of soils but appreciates any free-draining soil; that is, any soil that does not retain water. It will also grow on shallow chalk soils and appreciates shady or sunny areas.

How to plant

It is important that you grow Thuja Plicata Martin in the right way and in the right conditions to ensure that it establishes quickly and grows into a healthy, compact hedge. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Give the plant a good soak in the clod
  2. Choose a suitable planting area and remove grass and any weed
  3. Dig a trench twice the width and same height as the clod. Ensure that the walls of the trench are straight
  4. Take a small portion of the soil from the trench and amend with manure
  5. Place the clod at the center of the trench ensuring that the top of the clod sits level with the surrounding ground level
  6. Back fill the amended soil into the trench as you firm it around the root ball
  7. Fill back the remaining garden soil and water the soil to settle around the roots of the plant
  8. Apply a thin layer of manure and water the plant thoroughly


Avoid skin contact with the plant as it may cause irritation

Don’t plant in waterlogged soil

Needs to be protected from drying winds, especially when young

Plant young Thuja Plicata Martin as soon as they arrive to ensure maximum growth

Care & Advice

The first growing season is very critical for the growth and survival of Thuja Plicata Martin. For western red cedars that are dug up from the nursery for transplanting, most of their roots are severed and they will not be able to take up water well for a few months after planting, thus putting them at risk of drought stress. Here are a few tips to help you care for your western red cedar:

  • Watering

It is recommended to water them thoroughly during the first growing season. In hot, windy conditions or sandy soils, you will have to water them more frequently. During the first winter, you only need to water them occasionally.

  • Mulching

Spread 5-10cm of wood chips around the plant to reduce loss of water from the soil through evaporation and suppress the growth of weed. You can also use other mulching materials that may also provide nutrients that are helpful to the plant’s growth. However, ensure that the mulch is not in contact with the trunk of the plant to avoid rotting.

  • Fertilizer

Feed Thuja Plicata Martin with a fertilizer that has high nitrogen content such as a 16-8-8 formula in spring. However, you should avoid putting the fertilizer around the planting hold. Apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1/3 pound fertilizer for each 30cm of the plant’s height. Spread the fertilizer around the base of the plant and till in lightly with a hoe or rake and water thoroughly.


  • Evergreen
  • Fast-growing
  • An excellent windbreak
  • Scented foliage
  • Grows in many types of soils
  • Grows in shady or sunny areas
  • Good for screening and provides all year round privacy
  • Re-shoots when cut back into old wood
  • Nesting site for birds

Should I buy Thuja Plicata Martin for my hedge?

Yes, there are many reasons as to why you should choose Thuja Plicata Martin as your hedge plant. First, it is a fast growing coniferous and will maintain its evergreen color throughout the year, a trait that you definitely want in a hedge.

In addition, this variety of Thuja maintains a conical shape which is deal for hedging especially when you are dealing with a small garden. The fact that it can re-shoot from a cut back into old wood is just amazing as you can be sure that you will maintain a compact hedge even when you cut it wrongly.

It also grows in many types of soils, except waterlogged soil and itproduces a nice scented when crushed or pressed between fingers. If you live in windy areas, this species will provide just the right amount of protection. So, we can confidently say that this is a good hedge plant.

Here we have the most common question about this tree, and the one where fact and fiction have become twisted together on that most confusing source of knowledge – the internet. Let’s try to untangle that information and get closer to a factual understanding of how fast (and large) it might grow for you, in your location, without the hype, and using some real research to reach our conclusions.

Thuja Green Giant is the most popular evergreen for screening, hedges or specimens in all but the coldest areas of the country, and the hottest and driest. It is hardy from zone 5 to zone 9, which covers most of the country. Its dense evergreen foliage in a rich green color is the perfect backdrop for a garden, and its dense foliage protects your garden from noise and wind. It is also easily grown in most soils, and its toughness, disease and pest resistance, and resistance to deer too, makes it an easy, low-maintenance plant too. Newly planted trees need attention to watering until they become established, but after that Thuja Green Giant will largely take care of itself. It is naturally dense, so it develops into a solid screen even if you never trim it. It also trims easily of course, and it is easy to make beautiful hedges with this tree.

The Growth Rate of Thuja Green Giant

One of the big selling points of Thuja Green Giant is its growth rate. Among evergreens it is probably the fastest grower available, and that ability, and its overall toughness, comes from its hybrid origins. It is a cross between two different Arborvitae species, Japanese Thuja (Thuja standishii) and Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata). This cross was made in Denmark in the 1930s, but it was only after a plant was given to the National Arboretum in Washington that it drew any attention, and only in the 1990s that it became widely available. Since then it has shot to the top in popularity among gardeners. Hybrid plants are usually tougher and more vigorous than either of their parents, and Thuja Green Giant is no exception to that rule. This is why it has a remarkable growth rate. So how fast can it grow? Under average conditions young plants can add 3 and even 4 feet of height each year. Under ideal environmental and climatic conditions it is certainly possible to exceed this, and rates of 5 feet, or perhaps even more, are possible. But for most garden conditions across most of the country, 3 to 4 feet is something you can comfortable expect to see during the early years. We will look later at the different factors that have to be considered to arrive at a realistic estimate in any particular situation, but first, let’s look at some real research that is proven, not just a guess from someone wanting to sell ‘fast-growing trees’.

Back in 1999 the Commercial Horticulture Department of the University of Arkansas established a unique Plant Evaluation Program. Unlike other similar programs using just one site, three sites were established across the state, in three climate zones – zone 6b, 7a and 8a. These allow for comparisons in different climates, assessing both winter hardiness and heat resistance. In 2001 small plants of Thuja Green Giant in 1-gallon pots, were planted at these sites. The trees were planted in full sun, with initial fertilizer and drip irrigation. They were spaced 10 feet apart, and no pest-control or trimming was carried out. Each year the plants were measured, and records kept for 5 years.

The results for Thuja Green Giant were remarkable. At the end of the 5-year period those small plants had an average height just short of 10 feet, and a width of 5 ½ feet. The trees in the warmest location (8a) were 11 ½ feet tall! Even at the coldest (6b) and windiest site they were almost 10 feet tall. The slowest growth was at the zone 7a site, possible due to a period of very wet weather one spring, causing root problems. The years with the fastest growth rate were the second, third, and fourth years, with the plants in the warmest site adding a full 5 feet in their third year alone! The developers of the program (Dr. James Robbins and Dr. Jon Lindstrom) highly recommended Thuja Green Giant as a hedge or screening plant, and it was the fastest-growing evergreen in the trial. See the results here for more details.

What Affects the Growth Rate of Thuja Green Giant?

This careful scientific work tells us that under average conditions Thuja Green Giant will increase its height by 3 to 5 feet in each year. It also sheds some light on the factors that influence that growth, and we also have some other general ways of deciding exactly how much growth to expect.


Notice how in the Arkansas research the trees grew tallest in the warmest zone. This might seem like ‘common sense’, but it relates more to the length of the growing season than other factors such as winter lows (which are the basis of the USDA zoning system). We see the effect of a longer growing season in many plants. Grasses from warm climates bloom in zone 6 and not in zone 4 because they have more time to develop their blooms, not because it is colder in zone 4 in winter. This is an important distinction, because within a single zone factors such as sun exposure and wind affect the length of the season. Most hardy plants like Thuja Green Giant will not grow below temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees. The higher the total number of days the temperature is above that, the more growth. A shady, windy garden will have fewer days above 50, even in the same zone. As well, steady winds make all plants grow shorter, and in an exposed site you will not get as much height as in a sheltered spot.


Every year is different, and weather patterns each year are important. You could be unlucky, and encounter a cold, wet summer the year you plant, or the following year. You will not get the same level of growth from your newly-planted Thuja Green Giant if that happens. If, on the other hand, you have an early spring, and many warm, calm days, growth will be greater. As noted in the research, a wet spring seriously slowed the growth at one site, resulting in much shorter plants after 5 years.

Soil and Water

Some soils are fertile, while others are sand or gravel, with low fertility. These soils cannot support the maximum rapid growth a ‘rich, well-drained loam’ (ever gardener’s dream soil) can do. Poorly drained soils will also slow growth, although a steady supply of enough water is necessary to maximize growth. The north-west, where one parent comes from, and Japan, home of the other one, are places with warm but rainy summers, and mild winters. The growing season is long, and Thuja Green Giant is adapted to the typical soils of those areas. So, in America, the north-west is probably the area where the greatest growth – perhaps that elusive 5 feet a year, is most likely to happen. If you live in the dry south-west, even though you have lots of sun and heat, you will not see such a high growth rate.

So What’s the Answer?

We can see from all this that absolute statements about the growth you can expect from Thuja Green Giant are impossible. Is this a fast-growing tree? Definitely yes. What does that mean in your particular garden? You be the judge. What is your zone? What is your soil like? Will you feed and water regularly? How sunny is the place you are planting in? How sheltered is it? What is your soil like? These are just the most important questions you need to ask, but combining it with the data above, you should be able to come to a realistic conclusion for your own garden.

Red cedar


Red cedar, also called western red cedar, is the species Thuja plicata. It should not be confused with the eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, or the Lebanon cedar, Cedrus libani, which are unrelated species. Eastern red cedar is toxic if taken internally.

Western red cedar is a tree that grows to a height of 125 ft (60 m) in moist soils in mixed coniferous forests. It has red-brown or gray-brown bark with thick longitudinal fissures that is easily peeled. Its foliage develops in sprays about 6 in (15 cm) long with small, highly aromatic leaves. The leaves, twigs, bark, and roots are all used medicinally.

Western red cedar is found in the western United States and western Canada from Alaska through northern California and in the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia through Montana. Other names for Thuja plicata include giant red cedar, giant arborvitae, shinglewood, and canoe cedar. It is one of the most commercially important logging trees in the western United States.

A relative of the western red cedar, Thuja orientalis, grows in the eastern part of the United States and Canada. The naming of this species is confusing. It is called yellow cedar, but is sometimes also called arbor vitae. Confusingly, another relative, Chinese arbor vitae, is referred to in literature as interchangeably as Biota orientalis and Thuja orientalis. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine in many of the same ways as Thuja plicata.

General use

Red cedar is of major cultural importance to Native American tribes living in the Pacific Northwest. The wood, bark, limbs, and roots were used to provide many of the needs of the tribe ranging from shelter to cooking implements to medicine. Red cedar also has spiritual significance to some of these tribes and is used in ritual ways. Red cedar was a major medicinal herb for these Pacific Northwest cultures, although it is not much used today.

Native American tribes used the twigs, leaves, roots, bark, and leaf buds of red cedar to treat many different symptoms. Internal uses include:

  • boiling limbs to make a tuberculosis treatment
  • chewing leaf buds for sore lungs
  • boiling leaves to make a cough remedy
  • making a decoction of leaves to treat colds
  • chewing leaf buds to relieve toothache pain
  • making an infusion to treat stomach pain and diarrhea
  • chewing the inner bark of a small tree to bring about delayed menstruation
  • making a bark infusion to treat kidney complaints
  • making an infusion of the seeds to treat fever
  • using a weak infusion internally to treat rheumatism and arthritis

External uses include:

  • making a decoction of leaves to treat rheumatism
  • washing with an infusion of twigs to treat venereal disease, including the human papilloma virus and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • making a poultice of boughs or oil to treat rheumatism
  • making a poultice of boughs or oil to threat bronchitis
  • making a poultice or oil from inner bark to treat skin diseases, including topical fungal infections and warts
  • using shredded bark to cauterize and bind wounds

Scientific research supports some of these traditional uses of red cedar. Extracts of red cedar have been shown to have antibacterial properties against common bacteria. Compounds with antifungal properties have also been isolated.


Most preparations of red cedar call for boiling the medicinal parts to make a decoction or for making a tea or infusion. Little information exists on dosages.

An essential oil can be prepared from red cedar. This oil is meant to be used topically. It is toxic if taken internally, and has the ability to produce convulsions or even death if taken in even small quantities. A 1999 study done in Switzerland noted an increase in poisoning deaths from plant products, including Thuja, due possibly to an increase in people practicing herbal healing and aromatherapy .


As noted above, the oil of all species of thuja can cause convulsions. Decoctions of the bark of red cedar can also cause miscarriage. Therefore, pregnant women should not use red cedar.

Side effects

Many people develop asthma and bronchial spasms from exposure to red cedar or red cedar dust. This is due to an allergic reaction to plicatic acid present in the wood. Red cedar induced asthma is a serious occupational hazard to loggers in western North America. Estimates of the number of loggers who develop occupational asthma due to red cedar exposure range from 4-13.5%.


There are no studies and little observational evidence to indicate whether red cedar interacts with other herbs or with Western pharmaceuticals.



“Plants for the Future: Thuja plicata. http://www.metalab.unc.edu.

“Thuja plicata.” http://www.geocities.com/Rain Forest/Canopy.

Tish Davidson

About Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) 2 Nurseries Carry This Plant

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Western red cedar (Thuja plicata), also Western redcedar, is a species of Thuja, an evergreen coniferous tree in the cypress family Cupressaceae. In the American horticultural trade, it is also known as the Giant Arborvitae, Arborvitae being another name for its genus. Western red cedar is the Provincial tree of British Columbia, and has extensive applications for the indigenous First Nations of the Pacific Northwest. The western red cedar is not actually a cedar (Cedrus), but belongs in the Cupressaceae family, along with cypresses. It is known by many names, Pacific red cedar, British Columbia cedar, canoe cedar, giant cedar, or just red cedar. Plicata, the species name, derives from a Greek word meaning “folded in plaits”, a references to the pattern of its small leaves. It is one of two arborvitaes (Thuja) native to North America. Arborvitae comes from the Latin for “tree of life”. Coincidentally, native Americans of the West coast also address the cedar as “long life maker”.
Western red cedar is valued for many industrial uses, including roof shingles, construction and cedar chests. It is allergenic, can cause asthma, and construction workers are advised to limit exposure.
Left to itself, it will grow above 200 ‘. It can be pruned and trained to become a thick 6’ tall hedge. Plant Description Plant Type Tree
Size 40 – 230 ft tall
Form Pyramidal, Upright Columnar
Growth Rate Fast, Moderate, Slow
Dormancy Evergreen
Fragrance Fragrant – Pleasant
Flowering Season Spring
Wildlife Supported butterflies
Butterflies & moths hosted ( 31 confirmed, 5 likely * ) SHOW ALLBrown-lined Looper Neoalcis californiariaNeoalcis californiaria
Speckled Green Fruitworm Moth Orthosia hibisciOrthosia hibisci
Silver-spotted Tiger Moth Lophocampa argentataLophocampa argentata
Manto Tussock Moth Orgyia antiquaOrgyia antiqua
Western Carpet Melanolophia imitataMelanolophia imitata
Mottled Gray Carpet Cladara limitariaCladara limitaria
The Small Engrailed Ectropis crepusculariaEctropis crepuscularia
Landscaping Information Sun Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
Moisture Low
Summer Irrigation Keep moist
Ease of Care Moderately Easy
Cold Tolerance Tolerates cold to -15° F
Soil Drainage Fast, Medium, Slow
Soil Description Prefers loamy soils. Soil PH: 5.0 – 7.0
Common uses Bank Stabilization, Hedges
Maintenance watch for leafhoppers. Prune in winter when wood boring insects are less active.
Propagation For propagating by seed: 1-2 mos. stratification or soak in 0.2% potassium nitrate overnight (Association of Official Seed Analysts 1981). No treatment may give satisfactory germination ( USDA Forest Service 1948).

Sunset Zones 1, 2, 3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*
Natural Setting Site Type Forests
Climate Annual Precipitation: 41.5″ – 120.5″, Summer Precipitation: 1.04″ – 3.15″, Coldest Month: 38.2″ – 47.0″, Hottest Month: 57.0″ – 67.6″, Humidity: 0.26″ – 15.76″, Elevation: 20″ – 3650″
Alternative Names Common Names: Giant Arborvitae, Western Redcedar
Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the “About” section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from “Seed Propagation of Native California Plants” by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual “normals” at an 800 meter spatial resolution.
Links: Jepson eFlora Taxon Page CalPhotos Wikipedia Calflora

Environmental Studies

Juniperus virginiana, or more commonly known as the Red Cedar, is known for being strong for its size, and for its beauty. The Red Cedar is native in many states in northern and eastern America. It can be found is along woodland and wetland areas right on Lake Michigan.

Physical characteristics

Leaf: The leaf of Juniperus virginiana is a long skiny leaf that is needle-like. It is qualified as having Evergreen leaves. What this means is there are usually two types, a green leaf that about 1/14 of an inch and a much larger blue thistle that is about 3x the size of the green leaf in length. The leaf, at the tip, is rounded a somewhat spongy to the touch. Leaves come out in a whorl and are sub-opposite.

Flower | Seeds: The majority of these plants are dioecious, which means that each plant is either a male or female. Male flowers are small yellow spers of pollen. The female flowers are typically small and light blue. The berry and seeds are edible and turn a solid blue and rarely exceed 8cm long. The Red Cedar flowers in early spring and matures into a berry by late fall.

Trunk | Bark: The Bark is a deep red-brown. This tree has a tendency to “shed” its outerbark, and the color underneath is more of a dull grey. The bark is very sturdy and has been crafted into small shelters and also small furniture.

Life span: Depending if it is in its natural habitat, the Red Cedar can live between 100 years to about 300 years.

Ecological characteristics

The Red Cedar is found by bodies of water and is very prevalent around the Great Lakes. These trees will be found on the shore of the the body of water. They can live in many different types of enriched soil which include some clay soils and some sandy soils, however, it thrives in wetlands.

Here is a key that shows where Juniperus virginiana can be found. The green area is where the Red Cedar is native and the red area is where it is not native.

Importance to the ecosystem

The Red Cedar has many important uses within its ecosystem. One of the most important is that it provides a safe home for many different birds. It also provides shelter for land dwelling aminals when it rains becasue of the coverage the foliage creates. This tree also provides food for birds and deer with the berries it produces, though humans like the taste of the berries as well. Due to the root system, this is one of the best plants to protect soil from erosion. The significance of this is it allows smaller and younger plants to grow in enriched, protected soil.

Relationship with other species

Non-human: This tree provides food and shelter to numerous birds and animals and in return seed dispertion and fertilization occurs. Also enriched soil is preserved for smaller plants to grow.

Humans: Many fragrances are created from the bark, and it’s an attractive wood that small funiture is made out of. Also, the tree provides berries to eat, though many people don’t know they are edible. Many people use these trees as holiday trees and decoration for their yards, though yard decoration is not as popular as it once was.

Pests: Many insects love to eat different parts of the Red Cedar which include roots, bark, and the leaves. Many mites, worms, and beetles will eat these different parts of the tree, but rarely damage the tree enough for it to be lethal. However these insects have killed parts of the Red Cedar such as new growth. Fire is beneficial to the tree and fungus is a pest that can ruin roots and the bark of the tree.

Other interesting facts

  • The berry from the Red Cedar provides gin with its unique flavor and has been used for many years.
  • Red Cedar is a native plant to the Chicago region.
  • The Red Cedar is one of the first to re-populate itself after its habitat has been burned.
  • The bark of the Red Cedar is used to make many different fragrances, such as essential oils.

Web sites-

Virginia Tech http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=97





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Eastern Red Cedar Tree

Eastern red cedar tree is the common upright juniper of the eastern half of North America. It is a highly variable plant, but always forms a relatively conical silhouette of up to 50 feet. Many choice selections are popular in landscaping.

Description of eastern red cedar tree: The species generally has dark green, scalelike needles that persist throughout the year, although they may take on a reddish tinge in winter. Cultivated forms have been selected that remain the same shade year-round. The berries, borne on female plants only, are blue. The attractive reddish bark, peeling off in long strips, is most visible on mature specimens.


Growing eastern red cedar tree: The eastern red cedar requires full sun to grow well and prefers rich, moist, well-draining soils. It is, however, surprisingly adaptable and will even thrive on poor, gravelly soils. It appears to do equally well in acid or moderately alkaline soils. The plant can be pruned as needed.

Uses for eastern red cedar tree: This tree offers a wide range of uses. It is most popular as a columnar tree for landscape planting, but is also excellent for hedges and screens, even for topiary. It is also quite tolerant of seashore conditions. The wood is highly valued for its rich red color and fragrance.

Related species of easter red cedar tree: The western counterpart of the eastern red cedar is the Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum). It is available in many varieties of varying shades of green and bluish green.

Related varieties of eastern red cedar tree: The varieties of the eastern red cedar are too numerous to mention. The most popular ones are narrowly upright with grayish to bluish needles.

Scientific name for eastern red cedar tree: Juniperus virginiana

Want more information on trees and gardening? Try:

  • Shade Trees: Towering overhead, shade trees can complement even the biggest house, and define the amount of sunlight that reaches your yard.
  • Flowering Trees: Many trees offer seasonal blooms that will delight any visitor your yard or garden.
  • Types of Trees: Looking for fresh ideas about what to plant? Find out about different species that can turn your yard into a verdant oasis.
  • Gardening: Get great tips about how to keep your garden healthy and thriving.

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