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Cone Bearing Evergreens - Arbor Vitaes

( Originally Published 1927 )



Minute, scale-like leaves, four-ranked, closely over-lapping, so as to conceal the wiry twig, mark the genus thuya, which is represented in America by two species of slender, pyramidal evergreen trees, whose intricately branched limbs terminate in a flat, open spray (see illus tration, page 262). "Tree of Life" is the English translation, but the Latin name everywhere is heard.

Eastern Arbor-vitae

Thuya occidentalis, Linn.

The Eastern arbor-vitae, called also the white cedar, is found in impenetrable pure forest growth, from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick northwestward to the mouth of the Saskatchewan River, always in swampy regions, or along the rocky banks of streams. In the East it follows the mountains to Tennessee, and from Lake Winnipeg it extends south to middle Minnesota and northern Illinois. In cultivation it is oftenest seen as an individual lawn and park tree, or in hedges on boundary lines. It submits comfortably to severe pruning, is easily transplanted, and comes readily from seed. Plantations grow rapidly into fence posts and telegraph poles. The wood is durable in wet ground, but very soft, coarse, and brittle.

The Red Cedar

T. plicata, D. Don.

The red cedar or canoe cedar is the giant arbor-vitae of the coast region from British Columbia to northern California and east over the mountain ranges into Idaho and northern Montana. Its buttressed trunk is a fluted column one hundred and fifty to two hundred feet high in western Washington and Oregon, along the banks of mountain streams and in the rich bottom land farther seaward. The leaves in a flat spray at once distinguish this tree from any other conifer, for they are pointed, scale-like, closely overlapping each other in alternate pairs.

The clustered cones, with their six or eight seed-bearing scales, seem absurdly small fruits on so huge a tree. None exceeds one half an inch in height, but their number makes up for size deficiency and the seed crop is tremendous.

The Alaskan Indian chooses the tall bole of a red cedar for his totem pole, and from the massive butt hollows out the war canoe and "dug-out" which solve his problems of transportation in summer. Durability is the chief merit of this soft, brittle wood, which is easily worked with the Indian's crude tools. The bark of the tree furnishes the walls of the Indian huts and its inner fibre is the raw material of his cordage—the harness for his dog team, his nets and lines for fishing; and it is the basis of the squaw's basket-weaving industry.

This is the best arbor-vitae for ornamental planting. Its success in Europe is very striking, and from European nurseries it has been successfully re-introduced into the United States, where it is hardy and vigorous. But it fails when taken directly into the North Atlantic states. It must come in via Europe, as nearly all West Coast trees have to do in order to succeed.



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