Also known as American arborvitae, this evergreen gem of the Cypress family is a far superior alternative to the non-native Asian varieties often used to create privacy screens. A powerhouse as a native habitat tree, the leaves are lacy, flat, dark green plates that are soft to the touch. Branches are dense to the ground, making it a wonderful tree for creating privacy and offering windbreak. It's particularly beautiful and more valuable to wildlife when used as part of a mixed screen or hedge. It can be heavily pruned in spring, because, unlike many evergreens, new branches develop in the branch crotches.
Native habitats include low, swampy areas and banks of streams and lakes.
Grows 40-50’ tall and 6-20' wide.
Prefers full sun to part shade. Becomes leggy in too much shade.
Prefers moist to wet, well-drained soils but adapts to rocky, dry, and poorly drained soils.
A host plant for 32 species of Lepidoptera larvae in central Ohio, including four specialist moths that feed on Thuja, Pinus (pine), and/or Juniperus (cedar) in our area: jocose sallow, juniper geometer, pine tube, and southern variable dart moths. Supports numerous species of beneficial insects, such as beetles and plant bugs, which are eaten by American robins, juncos, cardinals and chickadees. Dense foliage is used for shelter by many migratory songbirds and by several species of sparrows and warblers. The seeds are a preferred food for pine siskins. The peeling bark is used for nesting materials by several bird species. The tree provides habitat and thermal cover for deer and other woodland mammals. Deer, porcupines, squirrels, and beavers love to help prune these trees, particularly in winter when other browse is scarce.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Native Americans used the white cedar to treat headaches, coughs, pneumonia, colds and fever. A poultice of powdered wood was used for rashes and skin irritations.
The inner bark was eaten fresh or dried to make into a flour. The needles can be used to make a high vitamin C tea; however, the oil that floats up during steeping is toxic to humans and must be carefully skimmed off.
The wood is highly prized due to its light weight and resistance to decay. It is often used to make shingles and fencing. Native Americans often carved out the trunks to make canoes.
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