What is Arborvitae?
Arborvitae, also known as Thuja, is a genus of evergreen coniferous trees and shrubs in the cypress family Cupressaceae. The name “arborvitae” is derived from the Latin words “arbor” meaning tree and “vitae” meaning life, which aptly describes the long lifespan of these trees. Arborvitae trees are native to North America and are widely cultivated for their ornamental value and various medicinal properties.
Types of Arborvitae
There are several different species and cultivars of arborvitae, each with its own unique characteristics and growth habits. Some of the most popular types include:
1. Thuja occidentalis
Thuja occidentalis, commonly known as Eastern arborvitae or American arborvitae, is a slow-growing evergreen tree native to eastern North America. It is characterized by its dense foliage, which consists of scale-like leaves that are green on the upper surface and yellow-green on the lower surface. This species is often used as a hedge or screen plant due to its compact growth habit and ability to tolerate pruning.
2. Thuja plicata
Thuja plicata, commonly known as Western red cedar or Pacific red cedar, is a large evergreen tree native to western North America. It is known for its tall stature, reaching heights of up to 200 feet, and its reddish-brown bark. The foliage of Thuja plicata is dark green and scale-like, similar to other arborvitae species. This tree is often used in landscaping for its attractive appearance and ability to provide privacy.
3. Thuja orientalis
Thuja orientalis, commonly known as Oriental arborvitae or Chinese arborvitae, is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree native to eastern Asia. It has a pyramidal growth habit and dense foliage consisting of dark green scale-like leaves. Thuja orientalis is often used as an ornamental tree in gardens and parks due to its attractive appearance and tolerance to various soil conditions.
4. Thuja standishii
Thuja standishii, commonly known as Japanese arborvitae or Standish’s arborvitae, is a slow-growing evergreen tree native to Japan. It has a narrow, columnar growth habit and dense foliage consisting of dark green scale-like leaves. This species is often used as a specimen tree in gardens and landscapes due to its unique shape and texture.
Uses of Arborvitae
Arborvitae trees have been used for various purposes throughout history, thanks to their versatile nature and beneficial properties. Some common uses of arborvitae include:
Arborvitae trees are widely used in landscaping for their attractive appearance and ability to provide privacy. They can be planted as individual specimens or in rows to create hedges or screens. The dense foliage of arborvitae trees makes them ideal for blocking out unwanted views or creating boundaries within a landscape.
2. Medicinal Purposes
Various parts of the arborvitae tree, including the leaves, bark, and twigs, have been used in traditional medicine for their medicinal properties. Arborvitae extracts are believed to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. They have been used to treat various ailments, including respiratory conditions, skin infections, and digestive disorders.
3. Essential Oil Production
The leaves and twigs of certain arborvitae species, such as Thuja occidentalis, are used to produce essential oils. Arborvitae essential oil is known for its woody and earthy aroma and is often used in aromatherapy for its calming and grounding effects. It can also be used in skincare products and perfumes.
The wood of arborvitae trees is lightweight, durable, and resistant to decay, making it suitable for various woodworking projects. It is often used to make outdoor furniture, fences, and decorative items. The wood can be easily worked with and has a natural resistance to insects and rot.
Arborvitae trees are versatile and valuable additions to any landscape. Whether used for their ornamental value, medicinal properties, or woodworking potential, these trees offer numerous benefits. With their long lifespan and ability to thrive in various climates, arborvitae trees are a popular choice among homeowners and landscapers alike.