Botanically speaking, there are five different kinds of cedar trees. The Western Cedar is especially noted for its red wood coloration. It's often called Western Red Cedar. Other species are more earthy and oaken in color. All cedars are prized for their durability, aesthetics and pleasing odor.
Cedar trees are conifers (cone-bearing), like pine trees, evergreen needles and all. They don't survive well in extremely cold climates and are indigenous to North America, but are also abundant in the Mediterranean and the mountains of Asia and North Africa. Like any plant, they take on different characteristics influenced by the climate in which they grow. Among the different varieties, undiscernible to the lay person, include Cyprus Cedar, Lebanon Cedar and Turkish Cedar.
Western Red Cedar trees in Washington State and British Columbia have been found to live almost 1,500 years. They tend to grow among other conifers and rarely have stands of their own. Because the Western Cedar thrives in mainly coastal areas, it is more susceptible to loss by fire than other cedar varieties. It is found mostly along the Coastal and Cascade regions from southeastern Alaska to northwestern California and in the Rocky Mountains from Alberta and British Columbia to Idaho and Montana.
Although cedar trees in general prefer moist, almost swampy conditions, they grow in many diverse conditions. For example, the Atlantic White live on the East Coast in what is referred to as cedars wamps, mostly located in in eastern North Carolina, southeastern New Jersey, and northwestern Florida. Anywhere from 5 percent to 95 percent of these swamplands are filled with White Cedars.
Western Red Cedar is the most commonly recognized of the cedar family. It's also more highly regarded for a number of reasons, beginning with the warm coloration. However, it is desirable for many other reasons. It has numerous building and construction purposes ranging from shingles to fencing, house siding and decking. And because of its desirable aroma and ability to soak odors, many home closets are lined with cedar. It has a natural resistance to adverse weather and insect infestation. In fact, the oil of cedar needles is used for everything from insecticide protection to perfume.
There is dispute among wood experts on whether Western Cedar resists warping more than other cedars. It is more resistant to warping than soft woods like pine. Other than aesthetics, there is little to conclude that Western Cedar is less inclined to warp than other cedars. And those opinions come from home builders, deck builders and those that use cedar for producing stringed instruments. As far as one cedar's durability over another, there is no clear consensus, so use what looks best to you.
- Photo Credit Growing Cedar Trees; credit, http://patiolife.com/patio/cedarindex.html
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