Also known as western redcedar, western red cedar, and red cedar, this is not a true cedar (this is why a hyphen is used). The western red-cedar grows up to 60 metres tall and has drooping branches and a large trunk that spreads out at the base. Its needles are scale-like with a strong smell; the bark is stringy and can be torn off in long strips.
RANGE & HABITAT
Western red-cedar grows in Oregon, Washington and B.C. along the coast and in interior wet areas. In B.C., the yellow cedar grows in the Coast and Mountains, Georgia Lowlands and Southern Interior Mountains ecoprovinces.
The tree has extremely rot- and insect- resistant wood; it can last hundreds of years. The oldest red cedars have been over 1,000 years old! New cedars sprout in damp, rich soil or old wood, and the old trees turn into “nurse trees” when they die and fall over.
Bears and other animals use old hollow red cedar trees for winter dens.
TRADITIONAL FIRST NATIONS USES
The western red-cedar is known as the “Tree of Life” because it provides so many uses. Wood was used to build canoes, paddles, houses, boxes, totem poles, and tools. The bark of the tree was used in making mats, clothing, baskets, nets, fishing lines, and medicines. Western red-cedar bentwood boxes served as traditional cooking pots, with hot rocks being placed inside the water-tight box to cook food; cedar is anti-fungal, making it ideal for cooking. Bentwood boxes were also used as burial boxes for Chiefs and people of high esteem.
Western red-cedar wood is used for house siding, walls & roofing, fencing, furniture and musical instruments. These trees are also used as hedges for gardens.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Photo: Paula Steele