Leaf Identification

The leaves of the American Arborvitae are scale-like and aromatic. They appear in flattened sprays and are a yellowish-green to green. As an evergreen, the leaves stay attached all year. A structure called a branchlet blends in with the leaves and is further explained in the Twig and Bud Identification section.

Twig and Bud Identification

The twigs of the American Arborvitae are green when young eventually turning a grayish-brown. The American Arborvitae also has a special kind of twig called a branchlet. The branchlets are green, scale-like, and hold the actual leaves. It is hard to visually determine what is a branchlet and what is a leaf. Sometimes the twigs are called persistant branchlets, and the branchlets are called deciduous branchlets. The buds of the actual leaves are too tiny to see and are completely covered by leaves.

Bark Identification

The Eastern Arborvitae has grayish-brown to reddish-brown bark which will exfoliate on mature branches and the trunk of older trees. It forms long, vertical furrows.

Cone Identification

The mature cone of the American Arborvitae are oval, reddish-brown cones with 6 to 12 overlapping, thin scales. Each scale bears 1 to 2 small seeds with a pair of narrow lateral wings. The cones have a small spine at the tip. The staminate cones are small, inconspicuous, and are located at the tips of the twigs. The ovulate cones are solitary, around 1/2″ long, egg-shaped, and green. They also have several small, undeveloped wings.