White Cedar

Thuja occidentalis

Location in Ontario

Eastern White Cedar is found throughout most of Ontario, except for the very northernmost part. It prefers moist slopes and  swamps, but also grows on the rocky Niagara Escarpment.

Hedge rows of Eastern White Cedar are common in Norfolk County

Genus Thuja
Leaves are scale-like and evergreen. Pollen cones are globular and reddish in colour. Seed cones are small and oval in shape, greenish or purplish in colour. Size varies amongst the species. Wood is aromatic, easy to split and resistant to decay. In Southern Ontario, only Eastern White Cedar is found.

In the Landscape
Eastern White Cedar is a small tree, up to 15 metres, but can live to a very old age. It is a favoured hedge and windbreak tree. As a single specimen, it is a small, narrow, evergreen tree with flat delicate leaves and attractive, shredded bark.

TREE FACT: Even though Thuja occidentalis is known as "Eastern White Cedar", it is not a true cedar. True cedars grow only in the western Himalayas and the Mediterranean.

University of Guelph Arboretum

The leaves are flat and scale-like.
The bark is reddish-brown and composed of long, narrow, flat strips that has a shredded appearance.
Seeds are found in small oval cones.
Cones may appear after only 6 years of growth. Good seed crops occur every 2 to 5 years.

TREE FACT: Eastern White Cedar trees can live to a very old age. Small, stunted 1000 year old trees (and older!) have been found on the Niagara Escarpment, where conditions are harsh and the trees grow very slowly.

Recommended Book:
Kelly, P. E., & Larson, D. W. (2007). The last stand: a journey through the ancient cliff-face forest of the Niagara Escarpment. Toronto: Natural Heritage Books.

TREE FACT: Eastern White Cedar is also known as "Arborvitae" or "tree of life". Jacques Cartier learned from First Nations people how to use the leaves to treat scurvy.

The wood is soft and weak, but very resistant to rot. It is aromatic, with an odour similar to true cedar. Eastern White Cedar is popular for making split rail fences, fence posts, decks and cedar shakes. In the past, it was used to make cedar-lined canoes.
Specific gravity: 0.29
Janka Hardness: 320 lb
Wood Comparison Chart

Eastern White Cedar hedge row in winter,  Norfolk County

Link to United States Forest Service Silvics Manual for Eastern White Cedar.