Thuja plicata / western red-cedar

Thuja plicata, first described in 1824 in by James Donn (1758–1813), and later completed by David Don (1799–1841) in a work by Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761–1842), is commonly known as western red-cedar, giant arborvitae, shinglewood and canoe cedar. The provincial tree of British Columbia, Canada, having extensive applications for indigenous Americans of the Pacific Northwest.


Description. western red-cedar is an evergreen coniferous species of tree which will grow to mature heights of 200 to 230 feet (65 - 70 m) tall with a 10 to 13 foot (3 - 4 m) trunk diameter, measured at breast height. Trees growing in the open may have a crown that reaches the ground, whereas trees densely spaced together will exhibit a crown only at the top, where light can reach the leaves. It is a long-lived species; some individuals can live well over a thousand years, with the oldest verified being 1,460 years.

  • The foliage forms flat sprays with scale-like leaves in opposite pairs, with successive pairs at 90 degrees to each other. The foliage sprays are green above and green marked with whitish stomatal bands below and are strongly aromatic, with a scent reminiscent of pineapple when crushed. The individual leaves are 0.04 to 0.16 inches (1 - 4 mm) long and 0.04 to 0.08 inches (1 - 2 mm) broad on most foliage sprays, but up to 0.5 inch (12 mm) long on strong-growing lead shoots.
  • The pollen cones measure 0.12 to 0.16 inches (3 - 4 mm) long, colored red or purple at first, and shed yellow pollen in spring.
  • The seed cones are slender, measuring 0.4 to 0.7 inches (10 - 18 mm) long, and 0.16 to 0.20 inches (4 - 5 mm) broad, with 8 to 12 (rarely 14) thin, overlapping scales. They are green to yellow-green in color when young, ripening brown in fall about six months after pollination, and open at maturity to shed the seeds.
  • The seeds measure 0.16 to 0.2 inch (4 - 5 mm) long and 0.04 inch (1 mm) broad, with a narrow papery wing down each side.

Champion Trees. The "Quinault Lake Red cedar" is the largest known Western Red cedar in the world, with a wood volume of 17,650 cubic feet (500 m3). Located near the northwest shore of Lake Quinault north of Aberdeen, Washington. It measures 174 feet (53 m) tall with a diameter of 19.5 feet (5.9 m) at breast height.

The tallest known individual is the Willaby Creek Tree south of Lake Quinault, at 195 feet (59 m) in height.

Natural range of <em>Thuja plicata </em>
Natural range of Thuja plicata

Distribution. This species is native to USA — Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California; and Canada — British Columbia, and Alberta; growing at elevations from 0 to 6,500 feet (0 to 2,000 m) above sea level. It is typically found growing on various substrates, commonly on moist sites, in mixed coniferous forests.

Attribution from: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Champion western red-cedar. Photo taken at Olympic National Park, Quinault Rain Forest, Washington. With 17,650 cubic feet of wood volume, it is considered to be the largest Thuja plicata by girth in the world.
Photo by David Olszyk
Thuja_plicata — a closeup of foliage and seed cone detail, at Mount Higgins Trail #640, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Photo by Walter Siegmund, via Wikipedia
Thuja plicata — a closeup of bark detail.
Photo by