Canada’s cedar trees, also known as evergreen conifers of the cypress family, feature small, scale-like leaves rather than needles that cover the branches in sprays. Native people, particularly along the west coast, used the fragrant, soft wood of cedars to carve totem poles, canoes and lodges. Nowadays, gardeners and landscapers consider these trees to be great choices for backyards with their low maintenance.
Eastern White Cedar
One of Canada’s native cedars, this fragrant cedar grows up to 40 feet in height, although it can take decades to grow that tall. This cedar features arching greenish-yellow branches with delicate-looking fan-shaped sprays. The pale brown cones of the tree only reach a half-inch long, dispersing seeds the year following their development. The tree thrives in cool, moist, acidic soil near streams or creeks. White cedars have been known to live as long as 800 years--a tree found near Niagara Falls is estimated to be 1,316 years old. An important food source for wildlife, deer, porcupine, snowshoe hares and red squirrels graze on the foliage, particularly in severe winters. The tree also offers valuable shelter to birds and wildlife. This tree thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3 when planted in well-drained soil.
Western Red Cedar
Growing along the Pacific coast, this large tree features branches of fragrant glossy, greenish-yellow sprays and half-inch cones. Considered the provincial tree of British Columbia, this slow-growing cedar grows up to more than 200 feet in height in the wild with more than a 10-foot diameter trunk, forming a conical shape as it grows. Western red cedars live to be 1,000 years old--trees on Canada’s Queen Charlotte islands are more than 900 years old. The foliage of this cedar provides an important food source for big-game animals, including deer, along the west coast and near the Rocky Mountains.
Growing up to 70 feet in height and 40 feet in width in landscaped areas, this graceful cedar can grow much taller in areas where it is a native tree. Deodar cedar grows in a dropping pyramid shape when young and flattening out on top in old age. Sporting silvery dark green branches and three to four inch cones that turn reddish brown when mature, this cedar grows well in hardy zones seven through nine, thriving in full sun. This tree offers shelter to a variety of wildlife while the branches provide an important food.