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What is a Northern White Cedar?

Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

A northern white cedar is a tall evergreen tree that grows primarily in the eastern United States and southern Canada. It has normally has dense needles that are light green or greenish-gray. It produces medium-sized cones and light brown or red flower buds. This species is often used as a cover for small wildlife, or as a nesting area for birds.

This tree can sometimes grow as tall as 40 feet (12.2 m) when fully mature. It normally grows straight up in a somewhat triangular pattern. The branches are usually fuller at the bottom and narrower towards the top of this species. It can be around eight to 10 feet (2.44 to 3.05 m) at its widest point.

Several Native American tribes used Northern White Cedar to make canoes.
Several Native American tribes used Northern White Cedar to make canoes.

The needles of a northern white cedar are usually spaced closely together in somewhat of a fan shape. They are normally very short and placed on the ends of reddish-purple twigs. They sometimes feel rough to the touch, but are not generally sharp on the ends.

Branches normally begin close to the ground. They can sometimes be only one or two feet (.3 to .6 m) from the soil's surface. This can give cover for rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks, especially during the winter months.

The trunk of this tree is typically very straight. It is normally covered with dark or medium-brown bark. It may be very rough on the surface and sometimes has deep vertical grooves to it as well.

A northern white cedar can produce pine cones at around six years of age. The number of cones usually increases each year, with peak yields accomplished at around age 75. This tree will normally continue producing this number of cones for the rest of its life. This can be for a period of several hundred years, as one the oldest known specimens is believed to be over 1,600 years old.

This tree generally grows well in areas where winter lows dip to -50°F (-45.5°C). It prefers soil that is well-drained and slightly alkaline, meaning that the pH level is between 6.6 and 7.8. It normally thrives when planted in full sunlight rather than a partially shaded area. A northern white cedar needs to be watered regularly, as the needles may turn brown and fall off when there is a drought.

The wood of a northern white cedar can sometimes be used for making canoes. Also, the oil from this plant has been used in making household cleaners and soaps. These uses can make this tree a good choice for commercial growing as well as home landscaping.

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    • Several Native American tribes used Northern White Cedar to make canoes.
      By: Shchipkova Elena
      Several Native American tribes used Northern White Cedar to make canoes.