Northern White Cedar - Thuja occidentalis

Also known as Eastern White Cedar, this common conifer is easily recognizable by its scale-like yellow-green leaves.  This versatile tree is often found growing in “stressful” places quite happily – in fact, the Niagara escarpment is home to Eastern North-America’s oldest forests, with cliff-dwelling White Cedars that are over 1500 years old! The seeds are important food for many winter finches, and provide cover for white-tailed deer.

White Cedar Bark
The fragrant, grayish bark forms in narrow strips, and was used by native people to prevent scurvy by boiling it with the needles to make a tea. This technique saved the lives of many scurvy-riddled French explorers, giving rise to the name “tree of life”. Photo by Brian Lacey.

White Cedar Leaves
The flat scaled leaves of the Northern white cedar. Photo by Chris Earley.

These very small cones are produced in the spring and drop their seeds in the fall. Photo by Chris Earley.

Ontario Tree Atlas map of non-planted Northern White Cedar. 1995-1999.
Ontario Tree Atlas map of non-planted Northern White Cedar. 1995-1999.

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Farrar, J.L.. 1995. Trees in Canada. Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd. Toronto. ON. 504 pp.  

Kershaw, L. 2001. Trees in Ontario: Including tall shrubs. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton. AB. 240 pp

Muma, W. 2011. Ontario Trees and Shrubs. [Online] Available:

OMNR, 2011. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: Ontario Tree Atlas. [Online] Available:

OMNR, 2008. Ontario’s Biodiversity: Species at Risk.