Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Chamaecyparis thyoides


SPECIES: Chamaecyparis thyoides
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tirmenstein, D. A. 1991. Chamaecyparis thyoides. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : CHATHY SYNONYMS : Cupressus thyoides L. Chamaecyparis henryae Li Chamaecyparis thyoides var. henryae (Li) Little SCS PLANT CODE : CHTH2 COMMON NAMES : Atlantic white-cedar southern white-cedar white-cedar swamp-cedar false-cedar juniper TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of Atlantic white-cedar is Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.) B.S.P. [18]. It is a member of the cypress family (Cupressaceae) [25]. In some taxonomic treatments, two primarily geographic varieties of Atlantic white-cedar have been delineated (var. henryae and var. thyoides) [16,25]. However, most current taxonomic treatments no longer recognize these varieties [18,25]. The existence of climatic races is possible, although they have not yet been defined [16]. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : See OTHER STATUS OTHER STATUS : Atlantic white-cedar is listed as a rare plant in Virginia where timber harvest has reduced its numbers [7]. It may also serve as a "habitat indicator" for several other rare plants [7]. In parts of Florida, many rare or endemic plants are associated with Atlantic white-cedar stands [47].


SPECIES: Chamaecyparis thyoides
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Atlantic white-cedar grows in a narrow belt along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from southern Maine to northern Florida westward to southern Mississippi [23,25]. It occurs no farther than 50 to 130 miles (80-210 km) inland [25]. Vast stands occur in the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and eastern North Carolina. Small isolated stands are more typical in much of New Jersey, Georgia, and eastern Florida, but stands are infrequent in Delaware and Maryland. The species is uncommon in South Carolina but becomes more frequent in the Florida Panhandle and in southern Alabama [46]. At the western edge of its range in southern Mississippi, Atlantic white-cedar grow in scattered relict stands [46]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress STATES : AL CT DE FL GA LA ME MD MA MS NH NJ NY NC RI SC VA BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K113 Southern floodplain forest K114 Pocosin SAF COVER TYPES : 45 Pitch pine 85 Slash pine - hardwood 97 Atlantic white-cedar 101 Baldcypress 102 Baldcypress - tupelo 103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo 104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Atlantic white-cedar grows as an overstory dominant in peaty swamps. It is listed as a dominant or indicator in the following community type (cts) classifications: Area Classification Authority VA general veg. cts Montague & Day 1980 southern U.S. swamp veg. cts Penfound 1952


SPECIES: Chamaecyparis thyoides
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : The light brown, straight-grained wood of Atlantic white-cedar is lightweight, buoyant, and easily worked [25,37,46]. It is fragrant, repels insects, and is resistant to decay [41,46]. Atlantic white-cedar has been logged heavily since the Revolutionary War [19,24] for fuels, ship-building, shingles, milled lumber, charcoal, household items, barrels, pails, tubs, water tanks, and duck decoys [25,46]. The wood of Atlantic white-cedar is currently used for telephone poles, posts, pilings, ties, siding, boat railing, decking, lawn furniture, paneling, and ice cream buckets [16,46]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Browse: Atlantic white-cedar is a preferred deer browse in many areas [26]. In lowland sites of New Jersey, deer often browse plants during the winter [26]. Seedlings are especially favored [25] and may be killed by intense deer use [26]. Meadow mice occasionally browse the stems and often girdle seedlings [25]. Trees serve as territorial marking posts for black bears in parts of the South [47]. PALATABILITY : Atlantic white-cedar browse is highly palatable to white-tailed deer [26]. Fruit is evidentally low in palatability for most birds and rodents [45]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Atlantic white-cedar provides cover for a variety of birds and mammals. The yellow-throated warbler, prairie warbler, and hooded warbler nest close to the ground in Atlantic white-cedar stands [42]. Cavities provide nesting areas for the pileated woodpecker [42]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Atlantic white-cedar has potential value for rehabilitating certain disturbed wetland habitats. It has been planted at Tennessee Valley Authority impoundments along shorelines within the fluctuation zone [1]. Atlantic white-cedar can be propagated from seed. Cleaned seed averages 460,000 per pound (1,014,000/kg) [25]. Atlantic white-cedar can also be propagated from cuttings [16]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Atlantic white-cedar is attractive and hardy and is often planted as an ornamental [9]. More than 19 cultivars are now available [16,33]. Atlantic white-cedar is used locally as a Christmas tree in parts of the South [46]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Timber harvest: Wetland drainage and heavy cutting has greatly reduced Atlantic white-cedar, and in many areas harvested stands have been maintained in an immature and degraded condition [24,25,46]. Harvesting on a commercial scale is now generally limited to parts of North Carolina [41]. Silviculture: Atlantic white-cedar often reestablishes in dense stands after clearcutting [19]. Following clearcutting in the Great Dismal Swamp, seed stored in the upper 1 inch (2.5 cm) of peat germinated at a rate of more than 3,574,840 per acre (8,640,000/ha) [19]. The following guidelines have been recommended for harvested Atlantic white-cedar sites: (1) remove most of the slash, (2) allow periodic fires, (3) control deer browsing if necessary, and (4) prevent the establishment of competing vegetation [41,48]. Damage/disease: Atlantic white-cedar is resistant to disease and decay, and has few insect pests [25]. It is susceptible to windthrow and storm-caused breakage [25].


SPECIES: Chamaecyparis thyoides
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Atlantic white-cedar is a small to medium-sized, columnar evergreen tree which commonly reaches 40 to 60 feet (12-18 m) in height and 36 inches (1 m) d.b.h. [16,25,40,45]. Individuals may occasionally reach 120 feet (37 m) in height and 60 inches (152 cm) in diameter [25]. Plants are long-lived and can reach 1,000 years of age. However, stands rarely survive more than 200 years [25]. The fibrous bark is narrowly fissured by long, flat, platelike ridges [15,37]. Scalelike leaves are opposite and average 0.06 to 0.13 inch (1.5-3.3 mm) in length [8,36]. Atlantic white-cedar is shallow-rooted [25]. On many swampy sites, roots are confined to the top 1 to 2 feet (0.3-0.6 m) of peat, but on sites with lower water levels, roots may extend considerably deeper [25]. Atlantic white-cedar is monoecious, with staminate and pistillate cones occurring on separate shoots [25]. Small, inconspicuous yellow or reddish staminate flowers are borne singly at the tips of short branchlets [15,16]. Each cone contains 5 to 15 small, rounded, laterally winged seeds [15,25]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (mesophanerophyte) Burned or Clipped State: Therophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Seed: Atlantic white-cedar reproduces solely through an abundance of light, winged seed [14,25]. In open stands, trees first produce seed at 3 to 5 years of age and often bear large crops from 4 years of age and up [16,45]. In dense stands, seed production may not begin until plants reach 10 to 20 years of age [25]. As many as 9,000,000 seeds per acre (22 million seeds/ha) may be produced annually [25]. Seed banking: Seed can remain viable for at least 1 to 2 years when stored in the upper inch (2.5 cm) of peat [16,19]. Little and Garrett [25] reported the presence of 260,000 to 1,100,000 viable seeds per acre (642,000-2,718,000/ha) within the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil. Germination: Germination of Atlantic white-cedar is often low due to poor viability and embryo dormancy [16,25]. Stratification at 38 to 40 degrees F (3-4 degrees C) for 90 days may promote germination [2,25]. Delayed germination is common, and in laboratory tests up to 50 percent of germination was delayed until the second year [16]. Results of specific germination tests were as follows [16]: stratification -days germ. test germ. capacity warm cold day night days percent 0 0 86 F 68 F 60 ---- 0 90 86 F 68 F 28 84 Seedling establishment: Open peat and adequate moisture are required for good seedling establishment [25,34]. Rotting wood, sphagnum moss, and muck or peat serve as favorable seedbeds [25]. Thick litter and dense slash can inhibit germination and subsequent establishment [25]. Adequate light is essential for good initial growth. Seedlings are vulnerable to drought and flooding and often survive only on favorable microsites [25]. Vegetative regeneration: Heavy browsing and other types of injury can cause plants to layer [25]. As many as 15 stems may form from the same root system as shoots develop from lateral branches or dormant stem buds [25,26]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Atlantic white-cedar grows in bogs or swamps bordering mesotrophic stagnant water, in swamp forests, bayheads, along stream channels, behind stable dunes, and in moist depressions in pine flatwoods [5,6,8,17,47]. In New England, it is often associated with glacial kettles and outwash plains [41]. Atlantic white-cedar grows in sun but is also somewhat shade tolerant [9,45]. It is able to persist despite periodic flooding [1]. Plants can grow where standing water levels reach 1 to 2 feet (0.3-0.6 m) during parts of the year and where sites become partially desiccated during summer [34]. Atlantic white-cedar occurs in pure and mixed stands [36]. In addition to those species listed under DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE, common overstory associates include eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), larch (Larix laricina), black spruce (Picea mariana), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), gray birch (Betula populifolia), and red maple (Acer rubrum) in the northern portion of Atlantic white-cedar's range [19,21,32]; eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) in some areas [25]; and pond pine (Pinus serotina), red maple, sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), and white bay (Magnolia glauca) in Virginia and North Carolina [12,19,22]. Farther south, Atlantic white-cedar grows with loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), titi (Cliftonia monophylla), water gum, and white bay [12,19]. Understory associates: Atlantic white-cedar stands are often characterized by a dense, tangled, nearly impenetrable undergrowth [19]. Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), great rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), dangleberry (Gaylussacia frondosa), and sweetbells leucothoe (Leucothoe racemosa) are common associates in the northern portion of its range. Fetterbush lyonia (Lyonia lucida), sweetbells leucothoe, highbush blueberry, pieris (Pieris nitida), greenbrier (Smilax laurifolia), coast pepperbush (Cletha alnifolia), redbay (Persea borbona), palmetto (Sabal palmetto), and sweet pepperbush grow with Atlantic white-cedar in the South [4,25,49]. Lyonia (Lyonia spp.), mountainlaurel (Kalmia spp.), titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), and sweet pepperbush are common associates in shrub bogs [5]. Climate: Atlantic white-cedar grows under a warm, humid temperate to subtropical climatic regime [5,25]. Annual precipitation averages 40 to 64 inches (102-163 cm) and temperatures range from winter lows of -36 degrees F (-38 degrees C) in Maine to 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) during the summer in much of its range. Growing season ranges from 140 to more than 350 days [5,25]. Soils: Atlantic white-cedar is adapted to highly acidic soils that are low in nutrients [41]. It typically grows on muck or peat but also occurs on some sandy soils [25]. It is rare or absent where peat contains significant amounts of silt or clay or where peat is underlain by clay [25]. Atlantic white-cedar reportedly thrives on water-logged organic soils [41]. Soils are generally acidic, with pH ranging from 3.5 to 5.5 [22]. Elevation: Atlantic white-cedar typically grows at low elevations along the coast. Through most of the Northeast, it grows from sea level to 160 feet (50 m) [21] but can grow at elevations up to 1,500 feet (457 m) in northern New Jersey [25]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Atlantic white-cedar is long-lived but is often considered a subclimax species [10]. Paradoxically, although some form of disturbance is generally necessary for establishment, disturbance can lead to conversion to hardwood types [39]. Even-aged stands of Atlantic white-cedar often develop in response to fire, flooding, clearcutting, or windthrow [10]. This tree is described as "intermediate in tolerance to shade" and is unable to grow through dense shrub thickets or a hardwood overstory [25]. In many areas, Atlantic white-cedar forests are successional to evergreen bay forests when fire is excluded [4,5]. In the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina, stands are often replaced by red maple and black gum [30]; elsewhere in the South, Atlantic white-cedar forests are replaced by climax stands of swamp red bay (Tamala pubescens), white bay, and titi [34] or by sweetbay magnolia, holly (Ilex myrtifolia), titi, and red bay (Persea pubescens) in the absence of fire [4]. Once eliminated from a stand, Atlantic white-cedar will not regain prominence until fire or other disturbance removes competing hardwoods and creates a favorable seedbed. Plants reestablish by wind-dispersed seed when buried seed reserves have been depleted and reestablishment is often very slow. In some coastal areas, storm-borne saltwater can kill hardwoods and allow Atlantic white-cedar to form nearly pure stands from seed stored in the soil [25]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Pollen is generally shed in March or April [37]. Cones mature at the end of the first growing season [16]. Most seeds are shed during October or November, but seeds continue to be shed throughout the winter and into the early spring [16,37]. Citing the results of a single study, Little and Garrett [25] reported that 39 percent of all seeds had fallen by November 15, 60 percent had fallen by December 15, and 93 percent had been shed by March 1. Generalized flowering and fruiting dates by geographic location are as follows: Location Flowering Fruit ripe Authority New England ---- July Seymour 1985 [40] NJ March Sept.-Oct. Harris 1974 [16] se U.S. March-April ---- Duncan & Duncan 1988 [9] s NJ April ---- Little & Garrett 1991 [25]


SPECIES: Chamaecyparis thyoides
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Adult white-cedar trees are readily killed by fire, but successful seedling establishment is largely dependent on fires of moderate severity at relatively short intervals [43]. Seeds stored in the peaty soils often germinate in abundance after fire if the upper peat layers are not destroyed [4]. Atlantic white-cedar swamp forests in the Southeast are typically produced by a low-frequency, moderate-severity fire regime related to "marginally moist soil conditions" [5]. In many areas, increased fire suppression has led to the decline of Atlantic white-cedar by promoting the growth of competing hardwoods such as red maple, white bay, and black gum [11]. Changes in natural fire cycles have contributed to the decline of Atlantic white-cedar in some areas. In many southeastern swamps, water tables have been lowered for silvicultural and agricultural purposes, which has increased the likelihood of dry season fires [5]. Hardwood forests of red maple, black gum, or water gum are often favored by severe, dry season fires [4,19,34]. Atlantic white-cedar may persist only on small hummocks of peat, near stumps, on moss-covered logs and on rotten wood located above the general water level [19]. In North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, moderate fires which occur during the dry season, or within a few years of a previous fire, often generate stands of pond pine [12,19]. Farther south, moderate or frequent fires often produce stands of slash pine [19,34]. As fire frequencies increase, Atlantic white-cedar declines and stands may be replaced by shrub bogs as the fire-sensitive plants are killed and the seed banks depleted [5]. In the North, frequent fire tends to favor the development of uniform stands of Atlantic white-cedar, but in the South, mixed forests of white-cedar and hardwoods often develop [47]. In Florida and the Gulf Coast, wet seepage slopes burn infrequently [47]. Swamps in which Atlantic white-cedar occurs as a dominant generally only burn after long droughts which increase the flammability of peat [11,35]. At other times, these swampy areas serve as natural fire breaks. Fires rarely begin in swampy Atlantic white-cedar stands. Fire is particularly important in the establishment and persistence of Atlantic white-cedar forests. Atlantic white-cedar is often capable of colonizing moist open sites, and wet season fires which occur after relatively long fire-free intervals tend to produce pure cedar stands [12]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : ground-stored residual colonizer; fire-activated seed on-site in soil off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2


SPECIES: Chamaecyparis thyoides
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Atlantic white-cedar is readily killed or damaged by fire [5,45], often by even low-intensity fires [5]. Crown fires will generally kill the trees [25,35] and can eliminate an entire stand [12,26]. Large trees not killed outright usually die gradually, beginning at the top [35]. Mature trees may occasionally survive low-intensity fires on wet sites in parts of the South [47]. On these sites, crown fires do not occur "even under the impetus of strong winds and fires that have crowned in adjacent associations" [47]. Seedlings, however, are readily killed by these low-intensity fires [47]. Wet swampy stands dominated by Atlantic white-cedar often serve as natural fire breaks, but trees at the edge are usually commonly killed before the fire is stopped [24,35]. Korstian [19] observed that in a portion of the Great Dismal Swamp, all Atlantic white-cedars were killed by a fire which occurred when the swamp was "full of water." However, dry-season burns are typically most damaging to young growth and buried seeds [19]. Dry season burns often remove the upper layer of peat and can eliminate all on-site seed [12,39]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Atlantic white-cedar readily establishes on burned sites through seed stored on-site in peat or transported from adjacent stands [5,24]. Germination is generally favored when surface peat is too wet to burn [34]. Seeds often germinate in abundance and dense stands commonly develop after a single fire [5,12,19]. Little and others [50] reported the presence of 111,520 seedlings per acre (45,109/ha) 1 year after fire, with numbers declining to 11,360 per acre (4,599/ha) by the second year. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Prescribed fire: Prescribed fire can be used to stimulate the regeneration of Atlantic white-cedar and increase deer browse [28]. Slash fires can enhance germination of Atlantic white-cedar by clearing the forest floor [19]. Competing hardwoods can also be reduced or eliminated if peat is heated enough to kill underground regenerative structures [11,19]. Fuels/flammability: Logging slash left in Atlantic white-cedar types is highly flammable and sites often "burn to the waters edge" [19]. Wildlife: Deer can seriously damage or kill postfire regeneration [26]. Lightning: Ward and Clewell [47] reported that in mixed hardwood-Atlantic white-cedar forests of the Gulf Region, lightning is apparently the primary natural factor determining the upper age and size limit of Atlantic white-cedar.


SPECIES: Chamaecyparis thyoides
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Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 4. Buell, Murray F.; Cain, Robert L. 1943. The successional role of southern white cedar, Chamaecyparis thyoides, in southeastern North Carolina. Ecology. 24(1): 85-93. [14091] 5. Christensen, Norman L. 1981. Fire regimes in southeastern ecosystems. In: Mooney, H. A.; Bonnicksen, T. M.; Christensen, N. L.; [and others], technical coordinators. Fire regimes and ecosystem properties: Proceedings of the conference; 1978 December 11-15; Honolulu, HI. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-26. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 112-136. [4391] 6. Damman, Antoni W. H.; French, Thomas W. 1987. The ecology of peat bogs of the glaciated northeastern United States: a community profile. Biological Report 85(7.16). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Research and Development, National Wetlands Research Center. 100 p. [9238] 7. 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Atlantic white cedar wetlands. [Place of publication unknown]: Westview Press: 19-34. [15872] 22. Levy, Gerald F. 1987. Atlantic white cedar in the Great Dismal Swamp and the Carolinas. In: Laderman, Aimlee D., ed. Atlantic white cedar wetlands. [Place of publication unknown]: Westview Press: 57-67. [15875] 23. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952] 24. Little, S. 1946. The effects of forest fires on the stand history of New Jersey's Pine Region. Forest Management Paper No. 2. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture,Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 43 p. [11619] 25. Little, Silas; Garrett, Peter W. 1990. Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.) B.S.P. Atlantic white-cedar. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 103-108. [13374] 26. Little, Silas; Moorhead, George R.; Somes, Horace A. 1958. Forestry and deer in the Pine Region of New Jersey. Station Pap. No. 109. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 33 p. [11681] 27. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496] 28. McKinley, Carol E.; Day, Frank P., Jr. 1979. Herb. prod. in cut-burned, uncut-burned & contl areas of a Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.) BSP (Cupressaceae) stand in the Great Dismal Swamp. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 106(1): 20-28. [14089] 29. Miller, Regis B.; Meyer, Frederick G. 1989. Identification of the heath-leaved cypress, Chamaecyparis thyoides `Ericoides' (Cupressaceae). Baileya. 23(3): 57-67. [14099] 30. Montague, Katherine A.; Day Frank P.,Jr. 1980. Belowground biomass of four plant communities of the Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia. American Midland Naturalist. 103(1): 83-87. [10905] 31. Moore, Julie H.; Carter, J. H., III. 1987. Habitats of white cedar in North Carolina. In: Laderman, Aimlee D., ed. Atlantic white cedar wetlands. [Place of publication unknown]: Westview Press: 177-190. [15877] 32. Morgan, Mark D.; Good, Ralph E.; Spratt, H. G., Jr. 1988. Acidic deposition impacts mediated by sulfur cycling in a coastal plain forest ecosystem. GeoJournal. 17(2): 183-187. [12693] 33. Munson, Richard H. 1973. Dwarf conifers: the landscaper's boon. American Nurseryman. 137(10): 10-11, 55. [14096] 34. Penfound, William T. 1952. Southern swamps and marshes. The Botanical Review. 18: 413-446. [11477] 35. Pinchot, Gifford. 1899. 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