Tree of Life
Updated: Jun 16, 2022
How about ushering in summer with a beautiful, new, native evergreen? One of my favorites that grows naturally throughout the mid-Atlantic and most of the East Coast is the Thuja occidentalis, also called Arborvitae or Eastern White Cedar.
Many of you may be more familiar with its relative, the Thuja ‘Green Giant’ – a fast-growing Japanese hybrid.
The native Thuja can reach 40 feet tall yet girths out at just 10-15 feet. It has soft, fan-like and fragrant foliage that turns yellow-green in winter, and it makes an outstanding hedge or privacy screen as well as a stunning specimen tree.
Just ask the French. According to Lady Bird Johnson, French explorers were so taken with the Arborvitae they brought one over to Paris in 1536. About that time, they named it arborvitae, "tree of life," after tea prepared from the foliage, now known to be high in Vitamin C, saved the crew of the Jacques Cartier from scurvy.
Wildlife also find salvation in Thuja. Songbirds use Eastern White Cedar for shelter and nesting, and in winter take winter refuge among the cedars
Thuja tolerates some shade but grows best in a sunny site and does well in moist, clay soils. With proper care, Thuja occidentalis will be around for your great-great grandchildren to enjoy.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=thoc2
North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox, https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/thuja-occidentalis/.