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Northern White-Cedar

| Description | Products and Uses | Site Conditions |
| Regeneration | Immediate Treatments | Pests and Diseases |


Range of northern white-cedar The northern white-cedar type of woodland occurs in the northern Lake States (Figure 6-13) where common associates on wetter sites are balsam fir, tamarack, black spruce, white spruce, black ash, and red maple. Yellow birch, paper birch, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen, balsam poplar, eastern hemlock, and eastern white pine are common on better drained sites.

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Products and Uses

The rot- and termite-resistant wood is used principally for products in contact with water and soil, such as rustic fencing and posts, cabin logs, lumber, poles, and shingles. Smaller amounts are used for paneling, piling, novelties, and woodenware. Cedar leaf oil is distilled from boughs and used in medicines and perfumes; boughs are also used in floral arrangements. The northern white-cedar type is valuable for white-tailed deer shelter and browse in winter. It is also used by snowshoe hare, porcupine, red squirrel and in summer by several songbird species.

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Site Conditions

Northern white cedar treeNorthern white-cedar grows on a wide variety of organic soils and mineral soils, but it grows best on limestone-derived soils that are neutral or slightly alkaline (pH of 5.5 to 7.2) and moist but well-drained. It does not develop well on extremely wet or extremely dry sites. It is usually dominant in swamps with a strong flow of moderately mineral-rich soil water. The organic soil (peat) is usually moderately to well decomposed, 1 to 6 feet thick, and often contains much rotted wood. It also can dominate peat ridges in bogs that have a sluggish movement of water weakly enriched with nutrients. On upland sites with mineral soil, it occurs on seepage areas, limestone uplands, and old fields.

Site index curves for northern white-cedar are shown in Appendix B-10. Manage for timber only where the site index exceeds 25.

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Rotation lengths range from 70 years for posts up to 160 years for poles or small sawlogs. For optimum deer shelter, plan rotations of at least 110 years.

Northern white-cedar reproduces successfully from both seed and layering. Good seed production begins at age 30, but peaks after age 70. Most seeds drop from mid-September to late October, but some drop during winter. They are wind-dispersed up to 200 feet.

Germination and seedling development is best where there is a constant moisture supply, warm temperatures, and pH of 6.6 to 7.2. On undisturbed areas, seedbeds on rotten logs and stumps account for more than 70 percent of the seedlings. On undisturbed areas, seedlings prosper on both upland and swamp burns. Burning must be fairly severe to expose favorable mineral soil seedbeds on uplands or to improve moss seedbeds in swamps. White-cedar seedlings also reproduce well on skid roads where compacted moss stays moist. Light slash cover is better than none, but heavy slash cover hinders seedling establishment.

Northern white cedar leaves and conesMoisture is often the most important factor during the first few years, but expect seedlings to be tallest when grown in about half sunlight and expect shoots and roots to be heaviest in full light. In areas with frequent hot, dry spells, partial overstory shade is necessary to reduce losses from drought and herbaceous competition.

Northern white-cedar can send out roots from any part of a branch or stem if moisture conditions are favorable. Layering frequently occurs in swamps, especially on poor sites with abundant sphagnum moss. Sprouts from roots or stumps are rare. Northern white-cedar is shade-tolerant and can be managed under single-tree selection or clearcutting systems. A clearcut or shelterwood harvest followed by natural seeding is the usual regeneration method. If advance reproduction is not present, a combination of clearcut and shelterwood strips is recommended to optimize natural seeding. Strips vary from one chain wide where seedbearing trees are less than 35 feet tall to two chains where these trees are more than 60 feet tall. Use either alternate or progressive strips. If you use alternate strips, clearcut one set, then cut the adjoining strip in two stages using the shelterwood system about 10 years later. For the first stage of the shelterwood, leave a basal area of 60 square feet an acre in uniformly spaced dominant and codominant trees of desirable species. Select residual trees for good seed production, wind-firmness, and timber quality. The second stage of the shelterwood, the final clearcut, should occur about 10 years after the seed cut. If you use progressive strips, work with sets of three?\the first two being clearcut at one-year intervals and the third one cut in two stages as previously described.

You may need to control associated trees before the final harvest if you want to obtain 50 to 80 percent white-cedar on good sites managed for timber or deer habitat. Kill undesirable trees (especially hardwoods) that reproduce by root suckers or stump sprouts at least 5 and preferably 10 years before reproduction cutting.

Rely on residual stems to reproduce a stand only if there are at least 600 stems an acre of relatively young (less than 50 years old) and healthy white-cedars remaining. Remove heavy slash that buries residual stems or seedbeds. Full-tree skidding in winter will remove most slash and is recommended where residual trees will be relied on for reproduction. Either full-tree skidding or burning may be used for slash disposal in clearcut strips.

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Intermediate Treatments

A mixed species stand with 50 to 80 percent white-cedar is best for multiple-use purposes. Young stands of white-cedar that are overtopped by shrubs or hardwoods may benefit from an herbicide release, providing there is no surface water nearby that could be contaminated by an herbicide. Alder, black ash, aspen, paper birch, willow, red maple, and balsam poplar are the main competitors to be controlled.

To produce timber, thin middle-aged stands initially to a residual basal area of 130 square feet, then thin at 10-year intervals to around 90 square feet, favoring dominant and codominant trees. Thinning below 150 square feet may stimulate advance tree reproduction and shrubs.

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Pests and Diseases

White-cedar is relatively free of major insect and disease problems. Wind may cause breakage and uprooting, mainly along stand edges and in stands opened up by partial cutting. White-tailed deer and snowshoe hare commonly browse northern white-cedar so severely that stands cannot become established. Overbrowsing may be minimized when regenerating stands if large patches (40 acres or more) are completely cleared. Roads, beaver dams, and pipelines that impede the normal movement of soil water will kill northern white-cedar.

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