Western Red Cedar
A large tree, up to 60 meters tall when mature, with drooping
branches; trunk often spreading out widely at the base.
It typically occurs at low to mid elevations along the coast and
in the wet belt of the Interior, where the climate is cool,
mild, and moist.
Western red cedar grows best in moist to wet soils, with lots of
nutrients. It is tolerant of shade and long-lived, sometimes
over 1,000 years.
Western red cedar frequently grows with western hemlock and
Douglas-fir. On the north coast, it also grows with amabilis fir
and spruces. These forests usually have a lush layer of ferns,
huckleberries, and Devil's club, with a thick carpet of mosses
on the forest floor.
The western redcedar has been called "the cornerstone of
Northwest Coast aboriginal culture," and has great spiritual
significance. Coastal people used all parts of the tree. They
used the wood for dugout canoes, house planks, bentwood boxes,
clothing, and many tools such as arrow shafts, masks, and
paddles. The inner bark made rope, clothing, and baskets. The
long arching branches were twisted into rope and baskets. It was
also used for many medicines.
The wood is naturally durable and light in weight. It is used
for house siding and interior paneling as well as outdoor
furniture, decking and fencing. Because of its resistance to
decay and insect damage, the wood of large, fallen trees remains
sound for over 100 years. Even after 100 years, the wood can be
salvaged and cut into shakes for roofs.
The western red cedar is British Columbia's official tree. The
name plicata comes from a Greek word meaning "folded in plaits,"
in reference to the arrangement of the leaves. It is sometimes
called arbor-vitae, Latin for "tree of life."
reddish to pinkish brown, often with random streaks and bands of
darker red/brown areas. Narrow sapwood is pale yellowish white,
and isnít always sharply demarcated from the heartwood.
a straight grain and a medium to coarse texture.
End grain: Resin
canals absent; earlywood to latewood transition usually abrupt
(or gradual if growth rings are widely spaced), color contrast
medium-high; tracheid diameter medium to medium-large.
Rot Resistance: Western
Red cedar has been rated as durable to very durable in regard to
decay resistance, though it has a mixed resistance to insect
to work with both hand or machine tools, though it dents and
scratches very easily due to its softness, and can sand unevenly
due to the difference in density between the earlywood and
latewood zones. Glues and finishes well. Iron-based
fasteners can stain and discolor the wood, especially in the
presence of moisture.
Red cedar has a strong, aromatic scent when being worked.
severe reactions are quite uncommon, Western Red cedar has been
reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply
include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, as well as runny
nose, asthma-like symptoms, and nervous system effects. See the
articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for
be moderately inexpensive for construction-grade lumber, though
higher grades of clear, straight-grained, quarter sawn lumber
can be more expensive.
wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is
reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
Common Uses: Shingles,
exterior siding and lumber, boatbuilding, boxes, crates, and
musical instruments. Western Red cedar is a commercially
important lumber, used in a number of applications ranging from
rough-sawn lumber for use in home construction to clear quarter
sawn material for classical guitar soundboards.
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are actual product pictures; unless otherwise indicated.