Northern White Cedar

Scientific Name: Thula occidentalis

How big are white cedar? Northern white cedar usually grow to be about 50 feet tall and 12-16 inches in diameter. However, they have been known to grow much larger even reaching four feet in diameter.

How long do northern white cedar live? Northern white cedar can live to be very old. There are many of these slow growing trees that have been estimated to be over 700 years old.There is one giant that I will be visiting during the adventure that is estimated to be between 1,100 and 1,400 years old! It is an amazing sight and well worth visiting.

What do their leaves look like? Their leaves are a dull yellowish green color. They are very small only about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and they form a branch like arrangement on the branches.

What does their bark look like? When they are young they have a smooth, shinny, reddish-brown bark. When they get older the their bark turns into long, flat gray-brown strips that get larger as the tree gets larger.

Where do northern white cedar live? They are found in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. They are often found along the edges of lakes growing out over the water. They usually grow in small, pure stands, or mixed with other trees such as white pine, yellow birch, and eastern hemlock.

What are some other cool fact about northern white cedar? The bark of a cedar tree spirals to the left when they are young and then after 75 to 125 years the bark switches and spirals to the right. Cedars prove that size is not always a good way to estimate age. One cedar was 530 years old and weighted less than one pound! You can tell how old a tree is by counting the rings found inside the tree. This tree only had two or three cells in each ring! The northern white cedar was probably the first north American tree to be grown in Europe. It was brought to Paris France in the mid 1500′s. Deer and Moose like to eat the leaves in the winter. You can often see a line about four feet up off the edge of a lake that has cedar along the edge. This line is called the browse line and is formed when deer and moose eat the lower branches.

 

Dave Freeman is the Executive Director of the Wilderness Classroom. Dave and Amy Freeman have traveled over 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world’s wildest places. National Geographic named the Dave and Amy Adventurers of the Year in 2014.

When the Freemans aren’t on expeditions or conducting school assemblies, they guide canoe, kayak and dogsled trips.

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