The needles of arborvitae come in flat sprays and, if you look closely, the needles appear covered in scales. There are many types of arborvitae. They can range in height from short shrubs to tree-like specimens.
Arborvitae literally translates (from Latin) as "tree of life." The name derives from the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River area by the French in the 16th century. The French, suffering at the time from the sailor's scourge, scurvy, learned from the natives that arborvitae's needles could be boiled, yielding a medicinal brew. As it turns out, the secret of the "tree of life" is a high vitamin-C content, making it useful in fighting scurvy.