Thuja plicata
(Western Red Cedar)

Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinatae
Family: Cupressaceae
Family Description: Cypress
Key Characteristics:
Also known as Red, Western Red, Pacific Red, or Giant Cedar.
  • are yellowish-green, small, scale-like, flattened, round-tipped, without glands
  • staminate cones are very small (1-2 mm long);
  • ovulate cones are composed of 4-6 pairs of leathery scales, and vary in length from 0.7 to 1.2 cm long; each scale bears 2 seeds.
  • bear two narrow wings which encircle the 2-3 mm long seed

General Description:
A tree 40-60 m tall with a narrow conical crown and a tapering trunk 1-3 m in diameter and strongly buttressed at the base; branchlets flattened, pendulous, forming flat, front-like sprays; bark bright cinnamon-brown, divided into broad, rounded ridges; leaves on leading shoots ovate, long-pointed, 6 mm long, glandular on the back, while on the lateral shoots they are 3 as long, without glands or these very obscure; cones reflexed, about.

Southern Alaska along the coast, in the Cascade Mountains, to Humboldt County California, east through British Columbia and northern Washington, to southeast British Columbia, northern Idaho (mostly on the west slope of the mountains) and northwest Montana.

Western Red Cedar is found only in areas with abundant rain or snow, high humidity, and cool summers from sea level to 5000 feet elevation. At the higher elevations, they appear more like shrubs than the tall stately trees found at lower elevations. They grow best in river bottoms, swamps, moist ravines and gulches. Best growth is found in deep, rich soils. Rarely found in pure stands, they are commonly found with Coastal Redwood, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Lowland Fir, and Western larch.

Western Red Cedar wood is aromatic, light, attractive and very resistant to rot, thus is used for siding, shakes and shingles, posts, poles, doors, window sashes, boats, greenhouse benches, canoes, totem poles, and lodges. It has few if any diseases. The strong inner bark was used for making baskets.

Important State References:
No information available at this time
Photos & information written by Dr. Karl E. Holte,© 2002