Like its cousin the Red Cedar, the native White Cedar is a member of the Mahogany family and also has attractive red coloured wood popular with woodworkers.
As one of Australia’s few deciduous trees, you can find them in gardens, streets and parks, losing their leaves in winter to let the sun through, providing much needed shade in summer and producing beautiful fragrant lilac-coloured flowers in spring.
White Cedar flowers during autumn and fruits are produced thereafter, usually from March to August.
Many homeowners in bushfire prone areas have replaced the flammable eucalyptus trees in their garden with White Cedars, one of the few native trees which are fire retardant.
Their dense canopy shields buildings from the extreme heat and absorbs sparks and embers before they reach the house. The plentiful water in the leaves also absorbs heat rather than providing more fuel to burn.
But despite its usefulness, the White Cedar has developed a bad name for itself in recent decades. It produces copious seeds which are poisonous to humans (but beloved of birds!)
Birds have spread the seeds and the species now thrives in a huge range of climates from humid to arid and even frost-prone areas. It can invade both disturbed and undisturbed areas and colonise new areas.
Originally endemic to New South Wales and Queensland, the White Cedar has now spread to all states and is especially invasive in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
White Cedar is a weed in south-eastern USA, parts of the Pacific and New Zealand.
It is best to grow these trees within their original range of New South Wales and Queensland to avoid further invasion.
DID YOU KNOW?
The seeds of the White Cedar are poisonous because they contain a chemical related to azadirachtin, commonly used in making insecticides.