21. Western Red Cedar

(Thuja plicata)

Other Common Names: Giant Arborvitae, Pacific Red Cedar, British Columbia Cedar, Canoe Cedar, Giant Cedar, Red Cedar

Family: Cupressaceae

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Western Red Cedar is a very important tree in the Pacific Northwest. The bark is fibrous, stringy, and red tinged on a singularly fluted, buttressed trunk. The sprays of yellow-green foliage are fragrant, scaly, and set with small cones no bigger than peanuts. Cedar doesn’t grow as tall as Douglas-fir, but makes trunks as thick, and lives as long. The campus has plenty of both.

Western red cedar is not actually a cedar but belongs to the Cupressaceae family along with cypresses. The name plicata derives from a greek word meaning “folded in plaits”, referring to the patterns in its leaves. Western red cedar has been called “the tree of life” because it provided so many medicinal and practical uses to the native peoples in the Pacific Northwest. The wood is soft and red-brown and was used to make canoes, houses, totem poles, bowls, spoons, and tools. The wood contains powerful fungicides that prevent decay for many years after the tree is dead. The inner bark has been used to make baskets and wicks for oil lamps, as well as Waterproof hats, capes, trousers, and skirts. The roots and bark have been used to make fishing nets. The list of uses goes on and on.

[Leaves and cones of Western Red Cedar]

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