Random Plant: Northern whitecedar (arborvitae)

Northern whitecedar (Thuja occidentalis, Cupressaceae) photographed 01/02/2011 in Palmyra Michigan.

Commonly planted as an ornamental tree, northern whitecedar (Thuja occidentalis, Cupressaceae) is native to northeastern North America.  Commercially it’s better known as arborvitae, which is probably more accurate than calling it a “cedar.”  True cedars are in a different genus (Cedrus) within an entirely different family (Pinaceae).

Foliage of a northern whitecedar (Thuja occidentalis, Cupressaceae) photographed 01/02/2011 in Palmyra Michigan.

Like junipers, these evergreen conifers have scale-like leaves.  The male and female cones are relatively small, dull-colored, and inconspicuous, unlike the bright blue “berry” cones of junipers.

Closeup of the leaves of a northern whitecedar (Thuja occidentalis, Cupressaceae) photographed 01/02/2011 in Palmyra Michigan.

Historically the leaves of this tree have been used by North American natives as a source of vitamin C.  This tree is also important as winter forage for white-tailed deer, and as a home for many birds.  I’ve personally startled many birds from their roosts in these trees as I’ve approached.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Random Plant and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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