Atlantic White Cedar (Thyoides)

The Atlantic White Cedar (Thyoides) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the fall and continuing until fall. Leaves are retained year to year. The Atlantic White Cedar (Thyoides) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Atlantic White Cedar (Thyoides) will reach up to 90 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 20 feet.

The Atlantic White Cedar (Thyoides) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -36°F. has none tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

The wood is light, soft, close-grained, and slightly fragrant. It is easily worked, resistant to decay, and shrinks and warps very little during seasoning. It has been used for shingles, posts, woodenware, and interior finishes, but primary current uses are for telephone poles, piling, ties, siding, and boat railing. Many cultivars of Atlantic white-cedar have been described (see Rehder 1949).

Heavy cutting for many commercial uses during this century has considerably reduced even the largest stands, but it is still considered a commercially important species in the major supply areas of southeastern Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and northwestern Florida.

Cultivars have been selected for shape and needle color – they are useful for naturalizing in wet areas.

General Characteristics

General: Cypress family (Cupressaceae). Native evergreen trees growing to 20 (-28) meters tall; trunks to 0.8 (-1.5) meters in diameter. Bark: reddish-brown, irregularly furrowed and ridged, peeling in long, fibrous strips, often partially twisted around the trunk. Branchlets are terete or rhombic in cross-section, in fan-shaped sprays, covered with dark blue-green, overlapping scale leaves to 2 mm long; facial and lateral leaves similar, usually with circular leaf glands. Seed cones are globose, 4-9 mm broad, bluish-purple to reddish-brown at maturity, with a somewhat crumpled appearance; scales 5-7. Native. The common name reflects its occurrence on the Atlantic coastal plain and its light-colored wood.

Variation within the species: populations of Atlantic white-cedar in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi have been segregated as Chamaecyparis henryae Li (= C. thyoides var. henryae (Li) Little), based on differences in bark, branchlets, leaves, and fruit, but the species also is variable in the Atlantic coastal segment of its range and the Gulf coast segregate has not generally been accepted.

Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) can be distinguished from Atlantic white-cedar by its flattened branchlets with clearly differentiated facial and lateral leaves and its ellipsoid seed cones.

Required Growing Conditions

Atlantic white-cedar grows in a narrow coastal belt 80 to 210 km (50 to 130 miles) wide from southern Maine to northern Florida and west to southern Mississippi. The scarcity of suitable growing sites makes distribution of the species within the coastal belt very patchy. The species is now classified as rare in Georgia, Mississippi, Maine, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Adaptation Atlantic white-cedar is found most frequently in small dense stands in fresh water swamps and bogs, sometimes on sandy soils, but usually on acidic muck (peat). The species is absent or uncommon in areas where muck is underlain by clay or contains appreciable amounts of silt or clay. Habitats in southeastern New Jersey range from about 1 meter elevation, where the trees border the tidal marsh, to 43 meters in some inland stands. The species currently grows in at least one upland bog in northern New Jersey at an elevation of 457 meters.

Cultivation and Care

Trees of Atlantic white-cedar in open stands start bearing seed at 4-5 years, although these seeds may be relatively low in viability; trees in dense stands begin cone production at 10-20 years. Fair to excellent seed crops are produced each year.

Germination occurs in a variety of light conditions, even in very low light intensity, but relatively open conditions are essential for good survival and growth of Atlantic white-cedar seedlings in competition with associates of shrubs and hardwoods (especially red maple, blackgum, sweetbay, and others). Establishment in nature usually occurs following disturbance of the canopy. Seedlings develop a very short taproot, and successful establishment requires not only adequate surface moisture for seed germination but also available moisture within reach of the shallow root systems. Suitable seedbeds include moist rotting wood, Sphagnum moss, muck, and moist mineral soil – these on hummocks where standing water is not present all year. Thick litter and slash are unfavorable for germination and establishment.

Increases in height slow after about 50 years and stop after 100 years; increases in diameter may continue at a relatively even rate up to 100 years. Stand age rarely exceeds 200 years, although some trees have apparently have reached 1000 years of age.


Atlantic white-cedar is considered rare in Georgia, Mississippi, Maine, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, and Maine.

General Upkeep and Control

Because of the shallow root system trees of Atlantic white-cedar are extremely susceptible to windthrow, especially where they occur in permanently saturated sites and where stands have been opened by partial cuttings. Fungi and insects usually do not cause serious damage.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance None
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 90
Vegetative Spread Moderate
Flower Color Green
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Fall Fall
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -36
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 3.5–5.5 pH
Precipitation Range 34–34 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–1700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Minimum Frost-Free Days 140 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance None
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention Yes
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA