Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.) B.S.P.
CUPRESSACEAE (Cypress Family)
EtymologyChamaecyparis means dwarf cypress, from the Greek: chamai = low, on the ground + kuparissos = cypress; thyoides means citrus-like, from the Latin: thya = citrus + oides = like, resembles.
Synonyms (Common Name)False Cypress, Southern White Cedar
DescriptionAn evergreen coniferous tree, Atlantic White Cedar has scale-like needles in flattish, fan-shaped sprays. The peeling, reddish-brown bark is aromatic. Atlantic White Cedar grows 50-90 feet tall in conifer swamps, but is often stunted in Sphagnum bogs.
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Height50-90 feet
LeavesEvergreen, opposite, small (1/16-3/16"), scale-like needle with resin gland on back; light green to bluish-green; slightly flattened sprays; arranged in four overlapping rows completely covering twigs.
FruitCone small, round (1/4" diameter), purplish-brown, leathery, with thick, paired scales; open at maturity.
Fruiting PeriodApril; mature in autumn.
HabitatConifer swamps and bogs, primarily on the coastal plain.
RangeEastern and Gulf coasts; central Maine to Florida and Mississippi.
Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
Swamp Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum)
Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
Herbs/Groundcovers: Sphagnum mosses:
Similar Species
Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) has a more northerly, inland range than Atlantic White Cedar and does not occur on the coastal plain; its leaf sprays are more flattened and strongly scented; the cones are oblong rather than spherical.
Eastern Red Cedar(Juniperus virginiana) [which is really in the juniper family] grows in upland habitats -- old fields and dry, open woods; it has sharp, three-sided needles, leaf sprays that are not flattened, and blue fruit that smell faintly of gin.
Seasonal Diagnostics
Spring: Greenish immature cones appear in April, but remain closed all summer.
Fall: Mature, purplish-brown cones open up in fall and persist through winter.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett