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Tree Campus: Western Red Cedar

Tree Campus SCC is a multi-year and interdisciplinary college initiative to document, map, and celebrate the incredible diversity of trees planted on the campus. With over 200 species, Shoreline Community College is an arboreal paradise that deserves to b


Western Red Cedar

x̌payac - S. Lushootseed

Thuja plicata (CUPRESSACEAE)



P.N.W. and inland N.W. North America



"Black-tailed deer browse western redcedar seedlings and saplings all year long in British Columbia, and Roosevelt elk feed on them during the fall, winter, and spring. Western redcedar constitutes one of the most important conifer foods of black-tailed deer in the Coastal forest region of southern Vancouver Island. Western redcedar was more severely browsed than Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western hemlock, or Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) on the Olympic Peninsula. Western redcedar is a major winter food for big game in the northern Rocky Mountains. An analysis of 69 stomach samples collected from elk harvested along the Lochsa and lower Selway rivers between January 1 and April 1 from 1960 through 1970 showed that western redcedar leaves made up 5 percent of the total winter diet by weight . In western Washington, black bears remove western redcedar bark and feed on the exposed sapwood.

Cattle browse western redcedar in preference to Douglas-fir in northwestern Oregon, and sheep damaged western redcedar reproduction more than that of other trees in northern Idaho. Seeds of this conifer were only occasionally taken by field mice in caged tests.

Old-growth stands of western redcedar provide hiding and thermal cover for several wildlife species. Bears, raccoons, skunks, and other animals use cavities in western redcedar for dens. In the southern Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho, northeastern Washington, and adjacent British Columbia, grizzly bears have been known to use heavily timbered western redcedar and western hemlock forests. Western redcedar is used as nest trees by cavity nesting bird species such as yellow-bellied sapsuckers, hairy woodpeckers, tree swallows, chestnut backed chickadees, and Vaux's swifts." [1]


Equity: Cultural and Historical Significance

"Western redcedar was an extremely valuable tree to the Indians of the Northwest Coast, providing materials for their shelters, clothing, dugout canoes, and fishing nets. Northwest Coast Indians shredded the inner layer of bark so finely that it could be used for diapers and cradle padding .

Western redcedar's drooping branches, thin fibrous bark, and flat sprays of scalelike leaves make it an attractive ornamental. When properly trimmed western redcedar is an excellent hedge." [1]



Western redcedar is an important commercial species throughout much of its natural range. In the Rocky Mountains, western redcedar occupies some of the most productive sites, often producing stands with high volume. The wood is low in strength and soft but is very resistant to decay, making it best suited for use as exposed building material such as shingles, shakes, and exterior siding. Hand-split western redcedar shakes sell for several times the price of asphalt shingles but will last 100 years on a roof. The wood is fine and straight grained, which makes it suitable for interior finishing. Western redcedar wood is also used for utility poles, fence posts, light construction pulp, clothes closets and chests, boats, canoes, fish trap floats, caskets, crates, and boxes.

Perfumes, insecticides, medicinal preparations, veterinary soaps, shoe polishes, and deodorants are made from western redcedar leaf oil. Western redcedar extractives and residues are used in lead refining, boiler-water additives, and glue extenders." [1] 



[1] Tesky, Julie L. 1992. Thuja plicata. In: Fire Effects Information System,. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:

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