Redcedar (Thuja plicata)
When is a cedar
not a cedar? When it is an arborvitae, that's when. The true cedars
(Cedrus species) come from the Mediterranean region, and include
the famous Cedar of Lebanon. They more closely resemble firs than
they do what we call cedar.
is one of three arborvitaes in the world; Eastern White Cedar is
another, and the third occurs in China. Eastern Red Cedar is, of
course, a juniper.
name, this is a remarkable species. It lives to an age of 1500 years
or more (if allowed to). It has played an important role to native
and non-native peoples alike.
peoples used the cedar tree extensively. Most obvious were the great
dugout canoes, and totems carved from single cedar logs. Longhouses
made of split cedar planks had huge cedar beams resting on cedar
The shaggy bark
was woven into articles of clothing, and fine rootlets were peeled,
split, and woven into baskets. European newcomers quickly learned
from the natives, and began to use cedar in their construction.
Its wood splits evenly and cleanly, is light in weight, and resists
decay. Split cedar shakes, properly applied, can keep a roof waterproof
for 75 to 100 years (current practices unfortunately are not so
successful). Cedar lumber weathers well and resists twisting.
is a prodigious seed producer, with counts of millions of seeds
per acre in mixed stands. Still, very few seedlings survive summer
drought, smothering by forest litter, and attacks by fungi.
is not the largest on the west coast, but some specimens are massive.
A specimen on Meares Island in Clayoquot Sound has a trunk circumference
of 20 meters. Another, at Cheewhat Lake, is just less than 19 meters
in circumference, but soars to a height of 59 meters. Older trees
are often disfigured, with many taking on a characteristic candelabra
Even after they
fall, they remain a part of the forest for hundreds of years, providing
cover for animals, and nourishment for new trees, a new generation,
the next 1000 years.