Thuja occidentalis L.

arborvitae, eastern white cedar, American arborvitae
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Thuja occidentalis
Elena Torres & Santiago Moreno
Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Thuja occidentalis: Appearance of the shrub all year round

Appearance of the shrub all year roundBranchlets compressed in a plane (as if flattened), covered with small scale-like leaves and with male cones at their tipsBranchlets with immature female cones at their tips; the 8-10 seed scales of each cone are flat and have a subapical rim

Thuja: From "thya" (Gr.) = ancient Greek name for another tree of the same family

occidentalis, -e: from the west


Habit: Evergreen, monoecious tree 12-20 m tall; trunk single or divided into 2-3 limbs; bark reddish, thin, fissured, scaly; crown dense, narrow; branchlets compressed in a plane, somewhat drooping and arranged ± horizontally.

Leaves: opposite and decussate in very proximal nodes, persistent, simple, 3-5 mm long, scale-like, ovate, with a wide and decurrent base, appressed to the short internodes in such a way that the stem can hardly be seen, ± acute, with a dorsal resin gland that is usually absent on the leaves of secondary branchlets; lateral pairs usually keeled.

Male cones: solitary, terminal, 1-2 mm long, ovoid, reddish. Female cones: solitary, terminal, inconspicuous.

Mature female cones: 8-14 mm long, ovoid, brown, formed by 8-10 decussate seed scales, woody, flat (not peltate), with a subapical rim, separating when mature to release the seeds. Seeds winged, ovoid, compressed, 2 in each of the 4 lower scales.


Male and female cones appear in spring; female cones mature in autumn of the same year.

Geographic origin

Native to SE Canada and the NE United States.


It is widely cultivated, especially to form hedges. Although it cannot be considered toxic, the presence of thujone in the wood can cause allergic reactions in the skin of some people.

It is propagated from seeds or semi-hardwood cuttings.

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