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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Thuja occidentalis L.)

Northern white cedar

CYPRESS FAMILY (Cupressaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: An evergreen, conifer tree up to 20 m. high. Branches are spreading with flattened, leafy twigs. The scale-like, opposite leaves are 2-4 mm. long and overlap like shingles. The small, woody, oblong cones are paired, 8- 15 mm. long and yellowish brown in color.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Northern white cedar is a dominant tree in coniferous swamps along with tamarack (Larix laricina). It also may be subdominant in hardwood swamps. Northern white cedar typically occurs north of the vegetation tension zone on neutral to alkaline, springy soils. It is common near the Great Lakes on soils subtended by dolomite. During the winter months, northern white cedar swamps provide both food and shelter for white-tailed deer. Another common name is arbor vitae.

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); Swink and Wilhelm (1994); and Voss (1972).

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