Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Taxonomy
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.
Associates
Trees:
Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Shrubs:
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