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Trees of Iowa: An Interactive Key

Northern White-Cedar
(Thuja occidentalis)



The Northern White-cedar also known as the American Arborvitae or Tree of Life grows on moist to wet soils.  It has been planted in eastern Iowa as an ornamental, and in northeastern Iowa it makes one of our better windbreak trees because of its heavy, dense foliage.

Hardiness: zones 2 through 8

Growth Rate:
slow

Mature Shape:
stiff, narrow-pyramidal

Height:
30 to 40 feet

Width:
10 to 15 feet

Site Requirements:
Arborvitaes grow best when planted in full sun with moist, well-drained soils, but can adapt to adverse soil conditions.

Flowering Dates: April - May

Seed Dispersal Dates: September - October

Seed Bearing Age: 20-30 Years

Seed Bearing Frequency: Every 3-5 Years

Seed Stratification: Prechill for 4 months at 34F to 40F

The leaf is a scale-like needle 1/8 to 1/4 inch long and is arranged to make the small branches flat.  The light green leaves have a pleasant, aromatic odor when crushed.

Northern White Cedar LeavesNorthern White Cedar Fruit

The branches and twigs are flattened or fan-shaped because of the arrangement of the scale-ike needles.e oblong, 1/2 inch long, yellowish brown and borne singly or in large clusters at the ends of the branches.

The cones are oblong, 1/2 inch long, yellowish brown and borne singly or in large clusters at the ends of the branches.

The bark is thin and gray to reddish brown. It separates into long, vertical, narrow shreddy strips.  The northern white cedar grows 40 to 70 feet tall.  The roots are shallow and spreading, often protruding above the ground. The wood is pale brown in color, durable, light and soft.  It is used for making canoes, fence posts, railroad ties, telephone poles and shingles.

 

Click on a thumbnail image below to view a larger picture.
Norther White Cedar Leaves Northern White Cedar Bark Northern White Cedar Fruit Northern White Cedar Leaves Northern White Cedar Form