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The bark of the eastern white cedar is thin and shiny when the tree is young, but separates into flat narrow strips as the tree gets older. The trunk is strongly tapered, often gnarled with thin reddy-brown bark.
The branchlets are flattened, dark green on the upper side and light-green or brownish on the base but without whitish markings.
It can grow 12 to 14 metres high (40 to 45') and can get to about 4 to 5 metres in width (15').
Leaves grow opposite; are scale-like, closely overlapping, with successive pairs at right angles. The upper and lower leaves are flat,with a protruding resin gland. Lateral leaves are folded, clasping the flat leaves.
Flowers are monoecious with the male and female flowers usually borne on separate twigs or branchlets; they are tiny, terminal, cone-like bodies. Male flowers are yellowish and arise from branchlets near the base of the shoot; female flowers are pinkish and appear at the tips of short terminal branchlets.
Ripe cones are pale brown, oblong, and measure 8 to 13 mm (.3 to .5”) long. Woody scales of mature female cones enclose double-winged seeds which are released the year after development.
The eastern white cedar is most often associated with cool, moist, nutrient-rich locations, particularly on organic soils near streams or other drainage-ways, or on calcareous mineral soils.It commonly grows in association with balsam fir and tamarack in the boreal region.
According to the online publication American Forests ( Winter/Spring 2017), two species of cedars have an edible and nutritious inner bark. These are the eastern white cedar and the western red cedar, (Thuja plicata). First Nations' people would harvest and dry it, then grind it into a powder for use when travelling or as an emergency. Leaves, fresh or dried, have been used for tea and other uses.
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