Western Red Cedar Trees

Western Red Cedar Tree Life

Western red cedars can grow in moist soil but thrive in sun or partial shade. While reaching to the heights, they keep lower branches, adding swirls of green to the lower forest. This coverage gives animals shelter, nests for birds, and in spring, buds and nectar for hummingbirds.

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Depending on a tree's age, its trunk can range from red to brown. In the damp air, moss comes along to add more color.

Trees can reach 200 feet in height, the measure of the wingspan of another high-flyer, a jumbo jet. Trunk diameters can measure up to 10 feet. Feeding all this growth, the tree's soft needles are bright green and have a butterfly or bowtie pattern on the back. I wish I had known about unusual marking. I would have looked for this when I saw a live red cedar tree and plan to look next time.

Meeting a Western Red Cedar Tree

On the waterfall-misted, moss-decorated pathway to the Multnomah Falls, a small sign marks a giant tree, "Western red cedar." When I hiked there, it made me dizzy to look up at the height of the reddish trunk and what had to be thousands or even tens of thousands of tiny needles. Clutching my phone (a drop would have been an electronic fatality), I took photos.

Cedar Symbolism

What do wolves, eagles, grizzly bears, thunderbirds, frogs, salmon, and ravens have in common? They all have taken their place on cedar totem poles. Often these poles show family crests or hint at stories known to a family. Cedar trees provide a sound material--the right height and a yielding, soft wood, good for carving.

Native people of the Pacific Northwest also used cedar trees for canoes. One particular boat had a warm cabin and could travel hundreds of miles. The trees also provided bark for fishing nets.


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