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This discussion has been pretty illuminating. Some observations
and a conclusion:
1) The guy that sold me the aromatic ceder for woodwork told
me it was from Lebanon but now grown in the West Indies. I'm
sure it is, but form the sounds of it it's plain old
Eastern Red Ceder - which is actually a juniper - Juniperus
virginiana. It grows throughout Ontario around the periphery
of the great lakes and as far north as northern Georgian Bay.
This is the wood that is aromatic, and has a deep purple heart.
2) Eastern white ceder also doesn't rot but doesn't stink
as much as red so it's used for fence posts, not ceder chests.
I don't think it gets the red/purple heart, hence the name.
3) I'm resoably certain that the stuff I collected was
the exotic (an odd word to describe what is as common
as a weed) Asian species Thuja occidentalis.
So, why is some safe, as some people experience, and
why is some not so safe.
I suspect the answer lies in the amount of the ceder oils.
I suspect there is much less in the roots of Thuja occidentalis
than there is in the heartwood of Red Ceder.
Certainly I've never noticed anything other than "white" wood
when cutting ceder roots.
Now, as to "seasoning" the stuff I collect is from ceder swamps.
We have a lot of them around here and it may have been sitting
in water for decades. My guess is that does more to leech out
any aromatic oils that are presant than sitting in the texas sun.
I have kept Corys and farlowellas in tanks with Ceder root
and I've also had them die in bare tanks for no apparant
reason. More study would be needed to correlate ceder
with "sudden cory death syndrome", in my opinion.
So, enough of the theory. Is "ceder" safe?
1) Use only the roots, avoid any thats too fresh or has
a dark red/purple heart.
2) Try it! Stick it in a bucket. Add feeder guppies. If they
live a month, add a Cory.
There, now wasn't that simple ? :-)
Richard J. Sexton
richard at aquaria_net
Bannockburn, Ontario, Canada +1 (613) 473 1719