Landowner Fact Sheets

northern white-cedar Thuja occidentalis play

Northern white-cedar is a conifer found on moist soils in the Lake states, northern New England, and eastern Canada. It also occurs locally in the southern Appalachians on limestone outcrops. It is useful for timber, wildlife, and ornamental purposes.

range map Click to see more images.

Northern white-cedar's shade tolerance allows for regeneration by shelterwood and group selection methods. Seed-tree and clearcuts work as well, especially in wetter locations.

Northern white-cedar is commonly found on low, wet sites or on limestone soils and outcrops.


A small to medium sized tree shaped like an arrowhead - a pyramid with a broad base and a small, round top, often with several main trunks.

Timber Value
Northern white-cedar is commonly used for fencing, posts, lumber, poles, cabin logs, and shingles.

Wildlife Value
Northern white-cedar is preferred browse material for deer and snowshoe hare. It also provides excellent shelter in harsh winter weather.
Attracts red squirrel, hares, porcupine, deer, warblers, sparrows, kinglets, pileated woodpecker

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Another name for Thuja occidentalis is arborvitae (the tree of life). Legend has it that Thuja was given this name because Native Americans used a tea made from the bark and foliage of this tree to save explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew from scurvy. Northern white-cedar is used widely as an ornamental tree. If pruned, it is capable of making a dense hedge. Northern whitecedar can live to be the oldest tree in eastern North America. Trees on the Niagara Escarpment have been dated to 338 AD.

Latin Meaning
Thuja: Greek "thyia" (for a juniper or a fragrant-wooded tree) from "thyo" (perfume) / occidentalis: western - Latin "occidere" (to set, as the sun)

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.