Monday, July 24, 2006


i thought that since we are covering our house with red cedar shingles i'd post a bit about cedar. the first thing i found is that in north america, or maybe just the usa, there is western red cedar, eastern red cedar, and white cedar. of course, each of these has many other local names. arborvitae, juniper (a hint of what i was to learn next), aromatic cedar, false cedar, port orford cedar, yellow cedar and on. you may have a "cedar" tree in your locale with a local name.

next i learned, quel surprise, that not one of these is a true cedar in the genus cedrus, family pinaceae, order pinales. the true cedars are cedrus deodara, from the western himalayan mountains, and cedrus libani (the cedars of lebanon!), from the middle east and up to turkey, which has several variations, one native to cyprus. true cedars have needles akin to pines or firs, and are in the order pinales, family pinaceae. there are no true cedars native to the new world.

from wikipedia:

The generic name Cedrus is derived from the original Greek name, 'kedros'. It has been mis-applied to many other trees with scented wood, including the genera Calocedrus ("incense-cedars"), Chamaecyparis and Thuja ("whitecedar", "Western Redcedar"), Cryptomeria (Japanese cedar"), and Juniperus ("Eastern Redcedar", "Mountain-cedar") in the family Cupressaceae; Cedrela ("Spanish-cedar") and Toona ("Australian Redcedar") in the family Meliaceae; and Tamarix ("Saltcedar") in the family Tamaricaceae.

western red cedar is an evergreen coniferous tree, Thuja plicata, in the cypress family Cupressaceae, order pinales. eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana, family Cupressaceae order pinales) is also an evergreen, but its leaves may turn yellow or brown in winter. eastern white cedar is Thuja occidentalis, family Cupressaceae. port orford cedar is Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, family Cupressaceae.

i'm starting to see why common names aren't sufficient to identify plants, or insects or animals for that matter.

the largest known western red cedar. it is near lake quinalt, wa. it is 19.5 feet in diameter
a cedar tree on whidbey island, which we will get to see this summer when we visit a friend on the island. it is 27 feet in circumference 9 (or so) feet in diameter.
the leaf structure of a western red cedar in our yard. not needles like a true cedar.
a close view of a shingle on our house. from a tree that is second cousin some removed from a true cedar.


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