University of Tennessee
Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
Our Center Home Page Arboretum Home Page

Arborvitae
(Thuja occidentalis and Platycladus orientalis))

Arborvitae, a popular landscape tree, is represented by several plantings in the Arboretum's Conifer Collection. The name Arborvitae is derived from Latin meaning "Tree of Life." References indicate it has been associated with long life and vitality in China, and early North American explorers used the foliage as a source of Vitamin C to treat scurvy. Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is native to the Northeast and North Central U.S. and adjacent Canada, extending south along the Appalachians to Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Elegantissima Arborvitae Elegantissima Arborvitae Leaves One well developed cultivar in the Conifer Collection is Elegantissima Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'Elegantissima') found at the edge of the Juniper Garden. This is one of the more commonly planted cultivars. The scale-like leaves are overlapping and tightly appressed to the twigs. In winter the leaves turn yellowish-green but become darker green during the growing season.

Pyramidal Arborvitae Pyramidal Arborvitae Leaves A second cultivar, Pyramidal Arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis 'Pyramidalis,' grows to heights of 20 to 30 ft. It has a narrow, pyramidal to conical form. The flattened branches are sprays of bright green scale-like leaves. For both these cultivars, the inner-most leaves turn brown in the winter, fall to the ground, and form a thick litter mat at the base of the tree.

Chinese Arborvitae Chinese Arborvitae Leaves Chinese (or Oriental) Arborvitae, Platycladus orientalis, was considered a species of Thuja until recently, but is now placed in a separate genus. It is native to Northwestern China and Korea but has become naturalized in many parts of Asia. It may grow to heights of 50 ft. and has ascending branches arranged in flat, vertical planes. The triangular, scale-like leaves are tightly packed and overlapping.

Return to Tree List

University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu