By: Marlene Affeld
The Tree of Life - Western Red Cedar (Thuya plicata) is a major species which flourishes in northwestern Montana and because of its exceptional durability has become known as arbour-vitae 'The Tree of Life'. Of Montana's total land area (93 million acres), 17 coniferous tree species cover about 22.5 million acres. Of these 17 species, the Western Red Cedar stands out as the largest, oldest and perhaps the best of the many trees that grace Montana.
During winter in the high country of the Bitterroot Mountains, many feet of heavy snow blanket the land in white silence. Snow accumulations often exceed 20 feet. In years of heavy snow seasons, the spring melt is impressive. Creeks and streams are rapidly moving torrents that often undermine the roots and sometimes topple the giant forest trees. Western Red Cedars grow on hillsides in moist areas beside streams so are most often affected by high water run off.