This weekend’s tree: Western Redcedar (one word), Thuja plicata
It turns out the Western Redcedar is not a cedar species at all. It thrives in the Pacific Northwest fog and rain and was a “tree of life” to this region’s Native peoples. A fallen Western redcedar can actually take 100 years to decay on the forest floor, thus providing habitat for endless species. Its trunk contains a toxin to fungi that prevents it from breaking down rapidly; hence, its prevalent use as human building material.
Welcome to a Thuja plicata that lives in front of my parents’ home. It is happy they have preserved it when building, and has become a symbol of their shared life, far preceding their nearly 48-year marriage and outliving it barring any natural disaster. At first glance, it appears to be a giant old tree.
But if you look at the North and South sides, you see this tree is actually two joined at the heart! The mind can sees what it wants to see, but I see a heart shape embedded at the junction of the two trees on the South side as they make their path toward the sky. It is difficult to tell from these photos the scale of the tree, but it is massive.
Another Western redcedar that speaks to me can be found on my favorite hiking trail only 3 miles from my home. Here a Native American name for the Western redcedar that translates as “dry underneath” is evident. The massive lichen-painted trunk rises to a lattice work of arms that protect the ground below from falling debris and rain. The perfect self-cleaning living room, if you ask me!
Bark clothing and rope, dug-out canoes, baskets, and building material the tree provided to the Natives of this region.
For further details about the Western redcedar, here are some great sources:
Here is a NASA 2012 photo (link not available due to current government shutdown) showing wooded biomass in the U.S. Every day, I feel blessed to live in the last most forested corner of the country and often reflect on what America was in the 1600s before the arrival of Europeans when one half of the land mass was covered in trees.