Eastern White Cedar

Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)


This small tree can reach a height of 40 ft. (13 m), with a diameter of up to 1 ft. (30 cm). The trunk usually has a lot of taper and is often twisted. Leaves are small and scale-like and stay on all year. The bark is thin and reddish brown, furrowing and peeling as it gets older.


Growing Conditions:

Cedar grows in swamps or wet sites, mainly in Prince County. It can grow on dry areas, but usually does not make good growth. It will not tolerate much shade.


Cedar cones can easily be collected from the trees, since some the branches often droop down within reach. Collect the cones in late September and October, before they turn brown and release the seeds. Treat the cones the same as for red spruce. Seedlings should be given partial shade and not be allowed to dry out. Cedar can also be grown from cuttings. Six inch cuttings should be made in mid-summer or mid-winter and treated with rooting hormone. The rooted cuttings should be raised in a nursery bed for a year or two and given light shading and mulch.

Wildlife Uses:

A healthy cedar hedge is a thing of beauty, for humans and other forms of wildlife. The seeds are a preferred food for pine siskins and are eaten by a grosbeaks, redpolls, crossbills, and other species of birds and small mammals. But it is as protection and cover that cedar excels, since smaller birds can find solace from both winter winds and predators within the dense branches.

Areas of usage:

Cedar can be used for streamside or wetland rehabilitation and in reforestation on wet sites. Some cedar were planted at Macphail Woods in a wetter part of the old field white spruce area and are growing well. This is due to the dampness of the area and the taller trees around it providing light shade. Cedar can also be used around homes if there is already some protection. It does not make a good hedgerow or windbreak tree if there is no protection, since the leaves dry out from heavy winter winds. The wood is our most rot resistant and is used for fence posts, shingles and in boat building.

Additional Information:

White Cedar is found only in scattered patches west of Summerside. It is a small tree reaching a height of 40 feet with a diameter up to 1 foot. The trunk tapers greatly and is often twisted. Its crown is conical, dense, long and narrow. Growing in the open, the tree often has a trim artificial appearance, almost as if it had been pruned. Eastern white cedar commonly occurs in swamps or similar wet sites but will grow on thin, often dry limestone ridges. It grows in pure stands or in mixtures of spruce, balsam fir, larch, black ash, speckled alder and white elm. Its wood is the lightest and most resistnat to decay of all out Canadian woods. In PEI, it is used mainly as posts but other uses are made of it for shingles, poles and boat building.

Historical Information:

Although we cannot go back in time to see the forests of PEI at the time of settlement by Europeans, we can acquire a reasonable picture by analysis of the written records of that time. This has been achieved by Dr. Doug Sobey in his work “Early Descriptions of the Forests of Prince Edward Island”. Recorders of the island forest describe cedar as being found only in the Malpeque and Bedeque Bay areas and westward. Specifically, cedar was mentioned as being common around Cascumpec as well as at Miscouche and the shores of Egmont Bay. In addition, records of the day indicate that cedar was found in quantities in Lot 6 through to Lot 12. Records indicate that cedar 65 feet high with a 3 foot butt were found, but most were of lesser size, as they were noted to be not suitable size for house or ship building. By the turn of the twentieth century, records show that most cedar of any size was harvested. Early descriptions indicate the cedar was found in low areas, such as swamps and barrens. It appears that cedar was a very valued tree in the forest for it durability which increased harvesting pressure. Cedar was used for shingles, poles, fencing, in addition to being exported.

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