Ed Golson Outdoor Education

northern white cedar

Scientific Name: Thuja occidentalis

Description: Cedar trees are easily identified by their distinct leaves. Unlike most coniferous trees that have needles as leaves, cedar trees have leaves that are much more like flat, broad scales. The bark of white cedar is also easy to identify; it is usually reddish brown in color and has a stringy texture. The bark often has diamond shaped cracks in it. The cones of the cedar tree are less than half an inch long and are difficult to spot if you're not paying attention. 

White cedar trees can grow up to 40 or 50 feet in height and have a diameter of 2 to 3 feet, as long as they are growing on good soil. On poor soil, white cedar might only reach a height of 25 feet and a diameter of a couple of inches. Cedar trees can live up to a couple of hundred years- one of the longest lived trees in Michigan.  

White cedar trees prefer to live in wet and swampy areas, and can become the dominant tree species in some areas. Young cedar trees often have a hard time surviving though, because they are often a favorite food source for white-tailed deer. In areas where there are a lot of deer, very few cedar trees make it to maturity.

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