Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Western Redcedar


John on an old growth cedar burl.
The hills of Coastal BC are covered in a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees. Where we live there's a predominance of hemlock and fir, but mixed in are a substantial number of cedar trees. On the lower slopes near our cabin you find Western Redcedars, but in the high country there are the more valuable Yellow Cedar trees. Both are in the Cypress family.

The Western Redcedar grows in moist to wet soil. They are shade tolerant, but when they reach their full height of 60 metres (200 feet), they can do the shading. The leaves are scale-like and form flat drooping branches, as opposed to the needles on pines, firs, and hemlocks. Many small brown cones appear on the branches and seeds germinate quickly in open and disturbed areas along roadsides and in logging slashes.

Young cedar growing out of an old cedar stump.
Cedars have a distinctive trunk that flares out at the bottom. When old growth trees were harvested, loggers used springboards to cut above these wide bases. Today you can find many huge old cedar stumps still standing in groves of second growth trees.

Cedar is a very durable and lightweight wood. It's excellent for indoor and outdoor construction and furniture. It has a nice colour (and smell), and resists rot and pests.

Mid-1900s cedar logging camp outhouse.
The Western Redcedar was a vital part of life for Coastal BC First Nations people. For this reason, it took on special spiritual significance. The wood was used to construct shelters, dugout canoes, totem poles, tools, arrows, masks, and paddles. The bark became clothing, rope, and baskets. Cedars were also used for medicinal purposes. Nothing was wasted. It really was their staff of life.

The Western Redcedar is British Columbia's official tree. It has brought prosperity to the land and its people for millennia. -- Margy


  1. Great info about the Western Cedar (and lots that I didn't know, despite living here), but my favorite shot is the one of John. Must have been quite a climb!

  2. You sure grow them in extra-large out west! Wonderful post!!!!

  3. Anonymous2:12 PM

    I love the trunk of the cedar - so artsy! Do you know what the medicinal qualities of these trees are?

  4. John looks like he's waaaaaay up there! Thanks for the info about Western Cedar. It was all very interesting. I kept thinking the forest must smell amazing.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder

  5. Anything that resists rot and pests is a good thing in my books. You have provided interesting information in this post. There is a wealth of cedars in my neck of the woods. I love them in the forest but am beginning to realize many are growing bigger and bigger in front lawns near homes and posing some danger. During our recent windstorm, there was significant damage to two nearby homes when large trees cracked and fell in the storm.

  6. I love the cedars - since we moved to WA I have missed the redwoods, which I understand are relatives in some way - but the cedars make up for the lack of redwoods. Great photos and info.

  7. Wow! How did John get up on that tree? Great photos!

  8. Love the smell of Cedar. We just made some cedar planter boxes. The shop smelled so good.

  9. John, that is amazing! Bravo, and I can only imagine, what a great view from there right?!

  10. Such an interesting article about the cedar, I love the smell of cedar wood it reminds me of Christmas, as my great aunt always used to give me a box of cedar wood soaps for Christmas.
    How did that guy get so high up the tree? he must be able to climb like a monkey... well done that guy !
    Best wishes,
    ABCW team,

  11. Nice informative post....and one big tree! I have never seen one that big.

  12. Gorgeous photos, and thanks so much for sharing the information.

  13. that's a tall tree, u were not going to jump down?

  14. I was in awe at the size of the trees in Cathedral Grove, ca't wait to visit again.

  15. got a sense of vertigo seeing John up there!



We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy