Northern White-cedars (Thuja occidentalis), also known as American Arborvitae, are often found in coniferous swamps and along lake shores. These conifers have a number of distinctive attributes: they are long lived, their bark is nearly fireproof, and their wood is very tough and can repel both the elements as well as insect pests.
Northern White-cedars have a life expectancy of 200 to 300 years (hence, one of its common names – “tree of life” or Arborvitae), but there are records of them exceeding 1,000 years. And cedar wood can withstand a great deal of stress. According to botanist and author Donald Peattie, “…a mere shaving from a carpenter’s plane may be laid on an anvil, folded, and struck repeatedly with a hammer, yet not break.”
It did not take humans long to appreciate the qualities of this wood. Its toughness, along with its being the lightest wood in the Northeast, made it ideal for the canoe frames of Native Americans. Lumber camps of the North Woods had cedar shingles because the wood resists decay practically forever. Today its durability lends itself to a number of outdoor uses, including fences, decks, boats and furniture.
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