Western Redcedar

Ancient Western Redcedar, FOC File Photo

(Thuja plicata)

Physical Characteristics:  Coniferous tree grows to 40-meters high with a diameter of 1 to 3-meters at the base. Old growth or “ancient” cedar can be over 5-meters at the base. Bark is cinnamon to grayish colored and easily peeled off in long fibrous strips. Branches appear to be spreading and hanging but upturn at the tips. Leaves are aromatic with a shiny yellowish color. They overlap and are arranged in four rows with the upper and lower pair flattened and the side pair folded into flat fan-like sprays.

Habitat: Very shade tolerant, can survive in darkened under-story, and has a low resistance to drought and frost. Requires moist soils and is almost never found above 4200ft. elevation. It has the ability to reach over 1,000-years in age, is decay resistant and an indicator plant of Temperate Rain Forest. Remnant Western Redcedar provide important habitat for numerous plant and animal species.

Range: Found in north Idaho, British Columbia, western Alberta, and in western Montana. Western Redcedar is found in moist to wet, rich, and often saturated sites in foothills to montane areas. Western Redcedar is a coastal disjunct species found in the Clearwater Basin.

Reproduction: Cones on Western Redcedar are both male and female and cluster on the ends of branch tips of the same tree. Pollen male cones are round and are about 2-mm long. Female cones are narrowly egg-shaped, 8 to 12-mm long with 6 to 8 dry brown scales. Cone production takes place between April-May.

Threats: Western Redcedar is rapidly disappearing from parts of its ranges in north Idaho, western Alberta and British Columbia and western Montana due to logging. Groves of remnant Western Redcedar are rare and should be protected on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests under the Forest Plan. A 2004 report by FOC staff and others, identified at least 30-groves that warrant such protection.

Miscellaneous: For many Native Peoples of the Pacific Northwest, Western Redcedar is commonly referred to as the “Tree of Life” for its many purposes. The long, soft strips of the inner bark are twisted, woven, and plaited to make a variety of items including, baskets, blankets, clothing, ropes and mats. Rafts, frames and dugout canoes can be fashioned from the trunks of the tree. Buds and inner bark of the tree also serve medicinal purposes.



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