Western Red Cedar
A large tree, up to 60 meters tall when mature, with
drooping branches; trunk often spreading out widely
at the base.
It typically occurs at low to mid elevations along
the coast and in the wet belt of the Interior, where
the climate is cool, mild, and moist.
Western red cedar grows best in moist to wet soils,
with lots of nutrients. It is tolerant of shade and
long-lived, sometimes over 1,000 years.
Western red cedar frequently grows with western
hemlock and Douglas-fir. On the north coast, it also
grows with amabilis fir and spruces. These forests
usually have a lush layer of ferns, huckleberries,
and Devil's club, with a thick carpet of mosses on
the forest floor.
The western redcedar has been called "the
cornerstone of Northwest Coast aboriginal culture,"
and has great spiritual significance. Coastal people
used all parts of the tree. They used the wood for
dugout canoes, house planks, bentwood boxes,
clothing, and many tools such as arrow shafts,
masks, and paddles. The inner bark made rope,
clothing, and baskets. The long arching branches
were twisted into rope and baskets. It was also used
for many medicines.
The wood is naturally durable and light in weight.
It is used for house siding and interior paneling as
well as outdoor furniture, decking and fencing.
Because of its resistance to decay and insect
damage, the wood of large, fallen trees remains
sound for over 100 years. Even after 100 years, the
wood can be salvaged and cut into shakes for roofs.
The western red cedar is British Columbia's official
tree. The name plicata comes from a Greek word
meaning "folded in plaits," in reference to the
arrangement of the leaves. It is sometimes
called arbor-vitae, Latin for "tree of life."
reddish to pinkish brown, often with random streaks
and bands of darker red/brown areas. Narrow sapwood
is pale yellowish white, and isn’t always sharply
demarcated from the heartwood.
a straight grain and a medium to coarse texture.
End grain: Resin
canals absent; earlywood to latewood transition
usually abrupt (or gradual if growth rings are
widely spaced), color contrast medium-high; tracheid
diameter medium to medium-large.
Rot Resistance: Western
Red cedar has been rated as durable to very durable
in regard to decay resistance, though it has a mixed
resistance to insect attack.
to work with both hand or machine tools, though it
dents and scratches very easily due to its softness,
and can sand unevenly due to the difference in
density between the earlywood and latewood zones.
Glues and finishes well. Iron-based fasteners
can stain and discolor the wood, especially in the
presence of moisture.
Red cedar has a strong, aromatic scent when being
severe reactions are quite uncommon, Western Red
cedar has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually
most common reactions simply include eye, skin, and
respiratory irritation, as well as runny nose,
asthma-like symptoms, and nervous system effects.
See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity
and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
be moderately inexpensive for construction-grade
lumber, though higher grades of clear,
straight-grained, quarter sawn lumber can be more
wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices,
and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of