Shrub ID

Asked April 26, 2016, 11:21 AM EDT

I was wondering if you could ID this shrub for me. It has berries and undulates when I push on it. It looks kind of like an arborvitae, but I don't think it is one as it doesn't seem to grow taller. It seems to put out separate roots above ground so that the shrub is kind of in "sections."

Hennepin County Minnesota

5 Responses

This is, indeed an arborvitae, also known as Thuja. There are many different kinds, and some get good sized, while others have been bred to stay smaller. They are slow growing, so it's possible that this one is still a youngster. They do tend to have more than one "trunk" that start near the soil, and although they usually maintain a bush or tree-like shape they can be splayed apart by heavy snows or ice-loads. This is why some folks wrap them in the winter.

Hi Mary,
Thanks for the ID. It doesn't look like the other arborvitae that I planted, which is thinner and grows tall (and doesn't undulate when touched). This one is much older than the one I planted two years ago, which has quadrupled it's height (it grows straight up). Someone else suggested that it might be a cedar, which seemed reasonable because I have cedar trees in the back yard, so I think the original landscapers must have liked cedars. Is it possible that it is some form of cedar shrub/hedge? I just saw a photo of "eastern red cedar" that resembles it.

Well, it still looks like a Thuja to me, but here is a key that can help you identify the needle shape and branch structure:

This tree is also known as a White cedar, so maybe we are just dancing around terminology?

White cedar, yes maybe it's just terminology. I found some arborvitae shrubs and a few grow to the height of this shrub, Holmstrup and Tecknito, so perhaps it's one of those varieties. One other question, I'm no green thumb, but if I wanted to grow more shrubs from this one, could you instruct me on how to do that? Thanks!

This plant is too old to divide. Even if it was much younger it would be a iffy proposition. Woody plants do not divide well at all.

It may be possible to tip-layer it, or to air layering but both of these techniques have high failure rates, take a good deal of experience and can leave you with a mutilated plant.

I have Holmstrup Thujas and some of them are over 20 feet tall. They don't necessarily stay small!

If you want more of these guys I'm afraid your best bet is to bring a photo and a branch to a good nursery and hope they will be able to find a match.

Good luck!