Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar near July Creek, Lake Quinault, Washington 
Reference: brewbooks. Thuja Plicata - Western Red Cedar near July Creek. 21 Aug. 2004. Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/820090338/.

Latin (group) name: Thuja
Latin (specific) name: Thuja Plicata (Donn)
Average max height: Over 200'
Average diameter: Up to 16'
Associated state: none
Category: American Woods
The Softwoods - Conifers

The Tree

Western Red cedar is a large, long-lived, slow-growing tree of the Pacific northwest. It attains heights of over 200 feet with a trunk diameter up to 16 feet. It has a wide buttressed or “swell butted” base, a long, clear trunk and a narrow, dense, conical crown. The bark, which is comparatively thin for such a large tree, being less than one inch thick, is stringy, fluted and fibrous and a clear reddish, cinnamon-browncolor. The inner bark is strong and tough and was used by the Indians for making baskets. The leaves, which have a pleasing aromatic odor, are flat and scale-like, glossy on the upper surface and form flat, lacy sprays. The small cones are about one-half inch long, have a leathery-brown color, and after shedding their small double-winged seeds, remain on the tree until the following summer.

western red cedar pollen cones
Western Red Cedar Pollen Cones
western red cedar foliage
Red Cedar Foliage
big western red cedar
Big Western Red Cedar

Common Names in Use

  • Western Bed cedar (trade)
  • Arborvitae (Calif.)
  • British Columbia Cedar (trade)
  • Canoe Cedar (Oreg.,Wash.)
  • California Cedar (trade)
  • Cedar (Oreg., Mont., Idaho., Pacific Coast, trade)
  • Giant Arborvitae (Lit. and hort.)
  • Gigantic Cedar (Calif.)
  • Gigantic Red Cedar (Calif.,lit.)
  • Idaho Cedar (trade)
  • Lobb’s Arborvitae (Eng)
  • Oregon Cedar (trade)
  • Pacific Arborvitae (lit.)
  • Pacific Red Cedar (Calif.,lit.)
  • Red Cedar (Idaho, Oreg., Wash., Mont., B.C.)
  • Red Cedar Pine (trade)
  • Shinglewood
  • Stinking Cedar
  • Washington Cedar (trade)
  • Washington Red Cedar (trade)
  • Western Arborvitae (lit.)
  • Western Cedar

Growth Range

The natural growth range of Western Red cedar extends from southern Alaska to northern California and eastward through Washington, western Montana and northern Idaho. It is found on moist soils from sea level, up to 7,000 feet in the northern Rocky Mountains.

The Wood

Western Redcedar heartwood is light, soft, durable, easy to work, rather brittle, and strongly aromatic. It is a dull reddish-brown, losing its reddish tinge with exposure. The sapwood is narrow and nearly white. The wood is straight-grained, rather coarse in texture and free from pitch. It takes a good finish, is easily glued, and takes and holds nails and screws very well.

cedar chest
Old Massett Red and Yellow Cedar Chest


The principal use of Western Red cedar is for shingles and lumber. It is also used for boxes and crating, caskets and burial boxes, sash, doors, general millwork, boat building, wooden ware novelties and many other minor uses.



  • Shelley E. Schoonover (American Woods) 1951 (Watling & Co. ) Santa Monica, CA 

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Page last modified on Sunday July 24, 2022 17:53:59 PDT by admin.