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Atlantic White Cedar

Chamaecyparis thyoides

Atlantic white cedars can form dense stands. (dogtooth77/Flickr)
Atlantic white cedars can form dense stands. (dogtooth77/Flickr)

The Atlantic white cedar is a tall evergreen tree with scaly, fan-shaped foliage and a cone-like shape. It grows in swamps, marshes and other wet areas near the coast in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. 


The Atlantic white cedar has fan-like sprays of scaly, flattened, green or bluish-green leaves. Young trees have needle-like leaves. The tree tapers to a point, giving it a cone-like shape. It has small, rounded, light blue cones and tiny, green or reddish-yellow flowers that appear in March-April. Its bark is reddish-brown. The Atlantic white cedar can grow to 75 feet tall.


Forms dense stands in low, wet areas, including freshwater marshes, swamps, river banks and wet woods.


Grows in a narrow portion of the Chesapeake Bay’s coastal plain, including Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Cones mature at the end of the first growing season, in September to October. During a good year, as many as 8 to 9 million seeds may be disbursed per acre in dense cedar stands. Each cone contains 5 to 15 winged seeds, which are spread by wind. Seeds can remain viable on the forest floor for many years. Seedlings grow into saplings at about one foot per year. Individual trees may live up to 1,000 years, but it is rare for stands to live longer than 200 years.

Other Facts:

  • Although it is called a cedar, the Atlantic white cedar is actually a cypress.
  • Its leaves are very aromatic, with a distinct, cedar-like scent.
  • Songbirds and white-tailed deer use Atlantic white cedars as food.
  • White cedar charcoal was used to make gunpowder during the Revolutionary War.

Sources and Additional Information:

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