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Nature Notes: The Northern White Cedar

Nature Notes is a new series on our blog sponsored and contributed by The Lake Champlain Land Trust. Check back for more great information on the natural ecology of Rock Point!

Northern White Cedar is a small to medium-sized tree (10-20 meters tall) commonly found in the northern forests of the Northeast. Its green leaves are flat, scale-like, and persistent for the whole year. White Cedar’s bark is brownish-red and arranged in narrow, longitudinal strips. The cones are very small (10-15 mm long) and have thin, overlapping scales.

While Northern White Cedar occurs throughout the Rock Point land, it is primarily found in what is known as a Limestone Bluff Cedar-Pine Forest, which is a rare natural community that only grows along the lakeshore. One of the oldest trees in the forest, scientists have found ancient Northern White Cedars over 1,600 years old clinging to cliffs in Southern Ontario!

White Cedar is sometimes called Arborvitae, meaning “tree of life.” Legend has it that Native Americans used this tree’s bark and foliage to make a tea that saved early 1500s French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew from scurvy. Native Americans also used White Cedar wood to make canoes.

White Cedar is an important tree for wildlife. Its twigs and branches serve as an important food source for deer, red squirrel, porcupine, and several bird species. Additionally, it provides forest-dwelling animals with shelter from harsh winter conditions.

The Lake Champlain Land Trust is the conservation partner of the Rock Point Sanctuary. The Land Trust holds the conservation easements permanently protecting the natural, scenic and recreational resources of the Rock Point land. The Lake Champlain Land Trust is a member-supported, non-profit organization working with you and your community since 1978 to save land, conserve places to hike and paddle, and protect Lake Champlain's water quality. For more information and local places to explore nature, visit our website (

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Using bulk cedar mulch around Northern White Cedar trees can improve their health by stopping weeds and keeping the soil moist. This mulch also gives your garden a natural, attractive look while helping your cedar trees and other plants stay strong and healthy for a long time.

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