The western red cedar is a large tree, up to 60 meters tall when mature, with long drooping branches and a trunk that often spreads out widely at the base. The needles are in 4 rows overlapping and arranged in flat sprays, looking like shingles.
The bark is a brownish-grey and tearing off in long strips on mature trees. The cones are oval-shaped and 1 cm longs. These cedar trees have a very pleasant aroma.
It grows at low to mid-elevations along the pacific coast and all of Vancouver Island. The red cedar grows best in moist to wet soils, with lots of nutrients. It is tolerant of shade and can live for more than 1000 years. The red cedar frequently grows alongside western hemlock and douglas fir. On the north coast, it also grows with amabilas fir and spruces.
The western red cedar has great spiritual significance to the coastal people who used all parts of the tree. All parts of cedar are useful, I like the smell of them. You can place a few small branches in a box or drawer that is used to store clothing and they will always smell fresh.
The Salish people called the Cedar Long Life-Giver and referred to the tree as Mother. The first People used the wood to build their longhouses, ocean-going canoes, for clothing, baskets, rope, medicine and the list goes on.
Cedar bark is gathered by peeling it from trees, you can do a cut in the trunk and peel up, strips can be as long as 10 meters. Please only take a small strip from any tree, thus allowing the tree to continue to grow. The bark can be used to make clothing, baskets, ropes and many other products.
First peoples used the cedar as medicine to treat many illnesses. Worked very well to treat rheumatism. The leaves were infused to make cough medicine, the infusing worked well as a treatment for tuberculosis and fevers.