Characteristics of the White Cedar Tree

Depending upon which region of the country you're in, the name "white cedar" is a common name that denotes several types of trees. Known for their towering heights and picturesque foliages, each type of white cedar tree has a distinguishing characteristic that defines the word "white" in its common name.

Tabebuia Heterophylla

A perennial member of the Bignoniaceae or trumpet-creeper family, white cedar (Tabebuia heterophylla) is native to Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The tree has a rapid growth rate and actively grows from spring through fall, reaching a maximum mature height of over 60 feet tall. The tree's white trumpet-shaped flowers bloom in spring, giving the tree its characteristic white appearance. The tree then produces its fruit and seeds, which form from spring through summer. White cedar thrives in warm climates and cannot tolerate the frost of northern United States regions. It thrives in full sun and moist soil.

Thuja Occidentalis L.

A perennial member of the Cupressaceae (juniper or cypress) family, this white cedar is also known as northern white cedar and arborvitae. It is native to most of the eastern half of North America, as far south as South Carolina. The United States Department of Agriculture lists this tree as threatened, endangered or under special concern in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Tennessee. Northern white cedar is a cold-hardy evergreen tree that has a full-bodied pyramidal shape from its base to its apex. It gets its common name from the white appearance of its bark. A slow-growing species, the tree's active growth season runs from spring through summer, reaching a maximum mature height of 50 feet. The tree blooms in the middle of spring and produces its fruit and seeds from summer through fall. It thrives in full sun to partial shade and needs moist soil conditions.

Chamaecyparis Thyoides

Commonly known as Atlantic white cedar from the grayish-white appearance of its bark, this perennial evergreen tree is a member of the Cupressaceae (juniper or cypress) family. Its native distribution runs along the east coast states, from as far north as Maine to as far south as Florida. The United States Department of Agriculture lists the Atlantic white cedar tree as rare in Georgia and New York, under special concern in Maine and extirpated--or destroyed from the roots--in Pennsylvania. Atlantic white cedar is an obligate wetland species, thriving in wet, swamp-like soil conditions. It is a cold-hardy tree that thrives in full sun to partial shade. Its active growth period occurs in spring through summer, and its green flowers bloom in spring. Atlantic white cedar grows to 50 feet at mature height. The tree produces it fruit and seeds in the fall.

Keywords: white cedar, Tabebuia heterophylla, Thuja occidentalis L., Chamaecyparis thyoides

About this Author

Naima Manal’s articles on health, diet, nutrition, alternative medicine, education, parenting, crafts, travel, home and garden and home improvement have appeared on eHow, Garden Guides, Trails, ConnectED, Helium and others. Manal received her B.S. degree in biology/pre-medical studies from Molloy College in 1994 and has been a freelance writer, teacher and homeschooling mom since 1993.