The graceful evergreen branches of the cedar tree make it a favorite throughout North America. Known also as arborvitae, thuja and juniper, these members of the cypress family are conifers, or cone bearing. Small cones at the tips are an added embellishment. Some female varieties have blue berries containing seeds that serve as cones. Cedar boughs provide fresh, green decorations that last long into the winter months.
Incense cedar is native to the Sierra Nevada mountain region, where it usually grows singularly. This very fragrant tree has flat foliage, a cylindrical crown and can grow up to 150 feet tall. Its reddish-brown female cones are 1 inch in length and hang downward.
Northern White Cedar
Northern white cedar is in the eastern half of Canada and the adjoining northern part of the United States. It is common to wetlands and limestone uplands and is known by the horizontal foliage and the half-inch, clustered, upright female cones. A mature specimen can reach 60 feet in height.
Western Red Cedar
Western red cedar is the only species of thuja native to western North America. Its foliage is similar to incense cedar, but its half-inch cones are erect and clustered. Western red cedar has red, shaggy bark and grows to 150 feet with waxed green foliage staggered on its branches. It is found in the base of canyons or individually along mountain creeks.
Alaska cedar is a tall, narrow tree with slightly droopy branches of yellow-green foliage growing to a height of 100 feet. Its reddish-brown, half-inch-diameter cones are singular. Alaska cedar grows from northern California to Prince William Sound in wet coastal forests, generally mixed with other conifers.
Eastern Red Cedar
According to Robert W. Poole of Neartica, eastern red cedar is in every state east of the Mississippi River, plus other states in the midwest. It is the tallest of the junipers, growing to 100 feet, but more commonly near 40 feet in height. Its female cones are prominent dark blue, berry-like structures with seeds for reproduction. Eastern red cedar prefers rocky, drier soils with limestone.