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Branches covered in scale like leaves

Thuja occidentalis

Common Name: White Cedar, Arbor Vitae
Family: Cupressaceae

Description:  This cone shaped evergreen can be characterized by its widely spreading branches with scale leaved and either a single or multiple trunk.
Scale-like and overlapping. They are green to dark green in color during the summer and in the fall become a green- yellow. When crushed they produce an aromatic scent. They persist 1-2 years.
Small cones with thin overlapping scales. They are not very noticeable except in cone clusters. They persist through out the winter.
Twigs: Flattened in fanlike sprays.
It can be reddish or gray-brown in long shreddy strips.
Height:  30-50 feet
Conditions/Habitat/Kind of Forest:  full sun to partial shade, poorly drained swamps, highly organic soil,
Known Wildlife Interactions: Used by white-tailed deer for shelter and food. It is also a common nesting site for birds such as warblers, sparrows and kinglets.  Woodpeckers also create holes looking for carpenter ants. White-tailed deer, snowshoe hairs, porcupines and squirrels can all severely damage the tree due to excessive eating habits.
Range:  Eastern North America from Nova Scotia south to Georgia and west to Illinois and Minnesota. In southern range found mainly around the Appalachian Mountains.
Conservation Status-US/ World Wide:  Not threatened in the U.S. or globally.
Uses (Human): It can be used in landscaping. The leaves and stems can be used as incenses.  It was also used by Native Americans for a wide range of medical purposes including treating fevers, coughs, rheumatic problems and numerous other things.


The Pennsylvania Flora Project.  Botany Department, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.  Accessed:  April 11, 2006. <>

UConn Plant Database. University of Connecticut. 2001. Accessed April 11, 2006. <>

Plants for a Future.  June 2004.  Accessed: April 11, 2006.  < >

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species <

USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area. April 6, 2006. Accessed: April 11, 2006. <>

Chadde, Steve W. A Great Lakes Wetland Flora. Pocketflora Press. 2002. pg.76    

This page was created by: A. Coiro , Muhlenberg College
Photos by: L. Rosenberg, edited by N. Smith
Last updated 04/25/06