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(Latin: tree of life) Any of six species (genus Thuja) of resinous, evergreen ornamental and timber conifers of the cypress family, native to North America and eastern Asia. Arborvitae trees or shrubs have thin, scaling outer bark and fibrous inner bark; horizontal or ascending branches; and flattened, spraylike branchlets with scalelike leaves. The Oriental, or Chinese, arborvitae (T. orientalis), a popular ornamental native to Asia, is a gracefully symmetrical shrub. Arborvitae wood is soft and lightweight but very durable, fragrant, and easily worked. The giant arborvitae (T. plicata) is the most important timber-producing species, but the wood of the American arborvitae (T. occidentalis) is also frequently used. False arborvitae (Thujopsis dolabrata) is closely related.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on arborvitae, visit Britannica.com.