Western Red Cedar – Thuja Plicata
This large, coniferous evergreen (up to 60m tall) can be found in low to mid elevations along the west coast of British Columbia as well as the cool and moist climate of the interior. These trees grow best in moist, nutrient dense soil and are tolerant of shade, living up to 1,000 years. They can be identified by their grey to reddish brown bark, drooping branches, flat fan-like leaves, and sweet scent.
The western cedar, also known as the Tree of Life, was integral to northwest coast peoples who used all parts of the tree. Its durable, rot resistant, and light characteristics made it useful for building homes, canoes, tools and more. Its branches were used to twist into ropes and baskets and its less smokey tendencies made it ideal for fires.
This tree begins producing seed-bearing cones after 10-20 years but reaches peak production between 70-80 years. These cones, both female and male, are brown and release their seeds during October and November.
Other Uses: Y
Soil: Nutrient dense, highly acidic to moderately alkaline
Watering: Moist to seasonally wet
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Usually found at: Pacific northwest and cool, moist climates
Pollinators & wildlife: Provides food and cover for small mammals
Ornamental: Evergreen conifer with cinnamon red bark
Leaves: Long drooping yellow-green leaves with small scale-like ends with faint whitish underside
First Nations uses: Often referred to as the Tree of Life, the Western Red Cedar provided a multitude of uses to First Nations Peoples. Virtually every part of the tree was used in some aspect of life. It was used for building longhouses, canoes, totem poles, clothing, and tools. It was also used in spiritual ceremonies.