For centuries, the Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) was the tree of life for cultures along British Columbia’s rain coast (hence the genus Arborvitae). Growing commonly to 150 feet high with a trunk more than 20 feet across, it provided bark for baskets, blankets, and diapers; twigs for rope; and tons of lightweight, fine-grained wood for canoes and buildings. Today the rot-resistant cedar still becomes posts, beams, decks, siding, and shingles. But first it’s put through several paces after leaving the rich, moist soil where it grows.