Thuja plicataWestern Red Cedar

Family: Cupressaceae

Origin: Western N America

This fast-growing decorative tree can reach 70 m in height; its crown is often conical and its branches are horizontal or drooping with upswept tips. The base of the trunk can often be buttressed and it emits a pleasant aromatic scent when crushed. The bark peels in strips, and is usually either cinnamon-red or light brown. The scale-like leaves are borne in flattened sprays and are glossy bright green above, slightly greyed-green beneath; the female cones are green when young, changing through yellow to brown when mature.A light gold-flecked variety exists which is said to be quite common in older gardens in Ireland. It is now known as T. plicata 'Irish Gold'.

An important timber tree in N America, it is better known here as an ornamental or hedging plant. There are well over a dozen cultivars, of varying habit, vigour and colouration. It is tolerant of damp conditions and can grow faster than larch. Its light wood is rot-resistant and durable; roofing shingles, window and door frames are made from it; native Americans of the Pacific north-west used it for carving totem poles and special dugout war canoes.

Introduced in 1853 by William Lobb (1809-64), a Cornish plant collector employed by the famous London nursery Messrs Veitch.

The genus name Thuja comes from the Greek thuia, which refers to a kind of juniper; plicata means pleated, presumably referring to the overlapping nature of the branchlets.

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