Sunday, January 31, 2021

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

 

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 30 January 2021.


A good time of year for taking a brief look at conifers, while not much else is happening.

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is a tall tree native to the Pacific NW of America. It isn't a cedar, of course: "cedar" was a prestige-label that timber merchants loved to use for other types of wood. It's a Thuja, a genus related to the cypresses as you can see from the scale-like leaves, but the cones are narrow, not globular. Most Thuja species have deliciously aromatic foliage and this one is no exception, most people comparing the scent to pineapple. The timber is excellent and lightweight; it was originally used for totem poles and canoes, and remains the favoured timber for rugby posts. I won't repeat all the other information that you can easily find on Wikipedia

I know it's Thuja plicata because the cones have 8-12 scales. The cones of Thuja occidentalis (the Northern White Cedar of the eastern US and Canada) have only 6-8 scales. 


Cones of Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 28 January 2021.

According to the Nordic Names site, Linnaeus coined the generic name Thuja in 1753, from the Greek thyein (to sacrifice), referring to the pleasant aroma of the classical cedar when burned, which made it the wood of choice for animal sacrifices. (The girl's name Tuija, derived from Thuja, has become quite popular in Finland.) 

There's no consensus on how to pronounce Thuja. Wikipedia suggests THEW-juh. The San Francisco experimental/drone band Thuja suggest THOO-zhuh, which may be how Americans say it. Linnaeus would probably have said TOO-yah, like the girl's name. 


Cones of Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 28 January 2021.


Shaheen Virk won first prize in the senior poetry category of the Surrey* Libraries Young Adult Writing Contest 2019 with this poem:


Thuja Plicata

                     Bestowed humble giant
                     Liminality and convergence
                     Are simply
                                    your bread and butter
                     Harbinger of the pacific oscillations
                     Thuja Plicata (Western Red Cedar)
                     The loggers
                                    know of your worth
                     The men in the glass cases
                                    do not
                     You too will be swept by the horseman:
                                    he prefers to be called Inferno
                     But today you stay standing
                                    healing.



* This Surrey is the city in British Columbia, just east of Vancouver.


Foliage of Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 16 January 2021.


Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 16 January 2021.

On these two trees the foliage comes right down to the ground. If you duck inside, you can see that the lower branches have been allowed to reach the ground. When this happens, they root, thicken up enormously and in effect set up as new trees.

Rooting branches of Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 2 February 2021.


Rooting branches of Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 2 February 2021.

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 2 February 2021.

But here, two hundred yards away, is a much bigger one where this wasn't allowed to happen. (This might well be the parent of the other two.) A very impressive tree, I think, and no-one's going to be mistaking this one for a cypress hedge. 

Bole of Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 2 February 2021.


Bole of Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Frome, 2 February 2021.


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