Thuja occidentalis (White Cedar)
|Also known as:||Arborvitae, Swamp Cedar, Northern White Cedar, Eastern White Cedar|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist to wet; peat swamps, moist upland forest, rocky lakeshores, cliffs|
|Bloom season:||April - May|
|Plant height:||40 to 80 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Male and female flowers are cone like structures called strobili, both borne on separate twigs or branchlets of the same branch. Male cones are round, 1/16 inch long with brownish scales on a short, stout stem at the branchlet tip.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are opposite, scale-like with abruptly pointed tips, 1/10 (or less) to ¼ inch long, in bead-like ranks along the branch in two pairs, each pair perpendicular to the other, the outer pair lateral and wrapping around the more flattened, inner pair. Leaves are bright green through the first winter then turn brown and woody and persist for several years.
Trunks are up to 50 inches in diameter, with thin, grayish brown bark in long, thin and flattened vertical ridges that can loosen in flat strips over time. Branchlets form a flat fan-like spray, covered with the green and brown scale-like leaves, bark on small twigs smooth and reddish brown. Branches may take root where they touch the ground.
White Cedar is a mid-sized, conical-shaped evergreen tree common throughout much of north central and northeastern Minnesota. A familiar sight along the rocky cliffs of the northshore and lake shorelines in the BWCA, it is also abundant in sphagnum peat swamps where it creates magical dark and cool cover for such things as rare orchids. Young saplings can persist many years in deep shade of surrounding trees as well as persisting as old stunted trees on open, harsh rocky cliffs, like the famed, 500-year-old Little Spirit Cedar Tree at Grand Portage. It is a highly favored deer browse and can be observed along highways in long rows, tightly trimmed from below to the height of the deer's highest reach. White cedar is also the source of the myriad cultivars of arborvitae found in the nursery trade. These and even the native form can be found in landscapes and windbreaks throughout Minnesota.
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- White Cedar tree
- White Cedar trees
- White Cedar along a rocky stream
- White Cedar on a cliff wall
- White Cedar branch
- flowering branchlets
- fruiting branches
- White Cedar trunk
- White Cedar in winter
- deer-browsed White Cedar
- Little Spirit Cedar Tree, ©Xerxes2004, Wikimedia
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Carlton, Lake and St. Louis counties. Photos courtesy John Thayer taken in Itasca County. 'Little Spirit Cedar Tree' © Xerxes2004 is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
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