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Northern White Cedar

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Wood identification
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Wood identification

The tree flourishes in company with hemlock, larch, alder, and balsam fir. In the moist soil that it frequently grows in thick stands. Favorable conditions produce trees 70' tall and up to 6' in diameter. Normally, northern white cedars grow to about 50' with a diameter of 2-3'. No matter its size, the tree has an attractive pyramidal shape, often with twin trunks. Northern white cedar's orange-brown bark features fissures that break into twinelike strings. Rather than having needles like most conifers, northern white cedar has tiny, scaly leaves that overlap on the twigs and branchlets. By late summer, reddish cones up to 1/2" long appear. Northern white cedar's aromatic wood is a light tan and weighs about 19 pounds per cubic foot air-dried. Although quite stable and easy to work, it is soft, brittle, and coarse-grained. However, the wood is durable in contact with soil and water, and strong for its weight. The fact that it easily splits along its growth rings was a blessing to the Native Americans, but is rated a defect called "ring shake" by the lumber industry.


Continued on page 3:  Uses in woodworking

 

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