National Tree Week: Thuja Plicata

As part of National Tree Week 2018, students and staff at Manchester Metropolitan University's Landscape Architecture department are once again throwing light on the trees that they believe deserve recognition.

Today programme leader Eddy Fox shares this Canadian specimen.

Thuja Plicata

Western Red Cedar

Eddy Fox, Programme Leader

Images provided by Eddy Fox

I experienced forests of these trees on a trip to British Columbia, Canada this summer. They are not true cedars although do form part of the Cupressaceae family. Often in association with Douglas Fir, they form incredibly tall, dense and formidable forests, making British woodlands seem tame.
They can grow up to 60-70m in height (at least twice the height of MMU's Chatham building) and live to over 1000 years (at least 10 times the probable lifespan of the Chatham Building!). They have remarkable properties which makes them extremely desirable for forestry, including the fact that their timber is both soft and easily worked, but also extremely durable. Older trees are immune to fungal or bacterial rot due to natural tannins which act as a preservative, and they also are almost free of the expansion and contraction typical of most softwoods. In addition, the open fibrous nature of the wood has excellent insulation properties.
The tree was known as the Tree of Life in native Pacific Coast cultures, due to its durability and flexibility. Its wood was used for central parts of First Nation culture, such as the kayak and totem poles. It was also used for cedar shingles, which clad or roofed traditional buildings and are still used today. The bark was put to a multitude of uses, such as ropemaking, mats, basketry and even clothes and hats. European settlers placed such a high value on the timber for construction that Vancouver and many other settlements on the north-western Pacific coast grew up primarily as trading posts for the timber industry.
Today, it is still the dominant tree in the forests which cover a vast area of the Canadian Province. These photos illustrate a particularly interesting characteristic which is that new trees will often grow on the stumps of dead trees, whose rotting timber provides the nutrients and support they need until they have established themselves.

#nationaltreeweek2018 #chooselandscape


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