Is there a significant difference between Eastern red cedar and Western red cedar?
Michael Dresdner: Absolutely. Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, is a small evergreen, and in spite of its name is a juniper and not actually a cedar. Its wood is quite variegated in color, has a distinctive aroma, and will repel moths. For these reasons it is often called aromatic cedar and is frequently used to line hope chests and blanket chests. The wood also contains an antioxidant that may prevent oil-based finishes from curing over it.
Western red cedar, thuja plicata, is a true cedar that grows to be very large, often 90 feet or more, and is a source for wood commonly used for roof shingles, siding, decking, fences and a host of other uses both interior and exterior. It is particularly prized for exterior work since it has a natural resistance to rot and bugs, and it will accept any finish. The Pacific Northwest tribes favored it for totem poles and canoes as well.