Native plant of the month: Western Red Cedar

Photo of Western Red Cedar.

Common name: Western Red cedar

Binomial Name: Thuja Plicata

Soil type: All textures; alkaline to acidic; occasional wet soil; drought sensitive

Sunlight: Mostly shaded to full sun

Plant type: Evergreen tree

Form: strong, horizontal and upright branches Form an overall pyramidal shape

Foliage: Flattened scale-like leaves are Opposite and arranged in pairs; Fragrant, delicate leaves densely cover each branch

Fruit/ Flower: Insignificant yellow flowers are followed by small, half-inch cones

This well-known forest tree can reach up to 200 foot tall in some areas of the northwest, but usually only reach 50 to 70 foot in landscapes. And up to 20 foot in diameter the western red cedar has one of the broadest bases of northwest trees. Tolerating shearing well, western red cedar can be used as a hedge or screen and can be planted near buildings because of its narrow crown. Western red cedars naturally can be found on river banks, swamps, and bogs.  

The red cedar is very durable and decay resistant which makes it ideal for many applications, most commonly as roofing shingles, deck boards, fences, and as siding. Native Americans used cedar to make totem poles and canoes, and used the long-fibered bark to make clothing, rope, mats, and baskets. One of the lightest of coniferous woods western red cedar is a highly attractive straight grained wood that has a very pleasant smell.