Landowner Fact Sheets

western redcedar Thuja plicata

Western redcedar is the only arborvitae native to western North America, occuring from northern California to south coastal Alaska. Western redcedar is very adaptable to light and soils, and can compete well in all stages of ecological succession. The wood is very valuable and has many interesting uses.

range map Click to see more images. wood grain

Western redcedar is very tolerant of shade and can be regenerated by a variety of methods. Clearcuts are most common, but shelterwoods, group selections and single tree selections are also viable. The seed-tree method is not recommended due to high risk of windthrow.

Especially common on cool, moist river bottoms, but also on mountain benches and slopes. Grows from sea level to upper elevations, depending on latitude and distance from the ocean.


A large evergreen conifer that grows to 200 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter (sometimes more). Has an open, pyramidal crown with pendulous, frond-like branches. Base of trunk is often swollen and fluted.

Timber Value
Western redcedar is used for shingles, shakes, utility poles, fence posts, pilings, clothes closets and chests, caskets, crates, boxes, beehives, fish trap floats, chemical extracts and residues.

Wildlife Value
The leaves are winter browsed by big game animals in the northern Rockies. Deer browse western redcedar all year, especially along the coast.
Attracts rodents, deer, elk, black bear, raccoons, skunks, sapsuckers, woodpeckers, tree swallows

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Western redcedar is the largest member of its genus. The heartwood is extremely durable and splits easily. Northwest Indians used all parts of this tree for everything from lodges and canoes to baskets and clothing. Today, cedar leaf oil is used in the manufacture of perfumes, insecticides, medicinal concoctions, veterinary soaps, shoe polish and deodorant. Extracts are also used for lead refining, water-boiler additives, and glue extenders.

Latin Meaning
Thuja: Greek "thyia" (for a juniper or a fragrant-wooded tree) from "thyo" (perfume) / plicata: plaited (leaves, branches) - Latin "plicare" (to fold)

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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.