|A COLD, GRAY DAY|
|FLAT, SCALE-LIKE NEEDLES OF WHITE CEDAR|
|...AS A SPECIMEN TREE|
|A WHITE CEDAR HEDGE PLANTED ABOUT SEVENTY YEARS AGO|
|A WITE CEDAR SPREADING ACROSS A RAVINE|
The native eastern white cedar, Thuja occidentalis, also called arborvitae, is a very beautiful, useful and most interesting tree. Its native habitat is swamps and streams and lake shores but it is quite adaptable. When young it makes a suitable evergreen hedge and accent plant, but give it a few decades and it becomes a forest giant and in the wild can spread by suckers and running branches to cover whole ravines. Be careful where you plant it, or at least have lots and lots of room. A hedge clippers can slow the process down for a long while, but genetics will eventually out. Speaking of genetics, there are a number of useful dwarfish varieties but even they can push the limits of the home landscape if uncontrolled. The cedar was and is an important American Indian medicinal and ceremonial plant, its iconic, pungent leaves being used in treating many illnesses of the nose, throat and lungs. The Ojibwe and some others also drank a tea made from the leaves. The wood was valuable for canoes and other objects and of course we all know of the cedar chest. The smoldering leaves and branches are used ceremonially as a smudge for purification of objects and persons, and of course in the sweat lodge. We have attended a number of blessing ceremonies where the smoke was so used.
The native range of eastern white cedar is the northeastern US and Canada, around the Great Lakes and upper Midwest. The giant western white cedar, Thuja plicata, is somewhat similar but much larger and is mainly a tree of the far northwestern mountains and Alaska. In the southeast along the Atlantic coastal swamps the Thuja is replaced by the somewhat similar Chaemacyparis thyoides.