Eastern Redcedar

Juniperus virginiana

This tree is not a true cedar but a member of the juniper family, as the botanical name implies. It is closely related to Juniperus scopulorum, the Rocky Mountain juniper.

There are numerous cultivars of eastern redcedar. Many are characterized by color differences that vary from dark green to bluish green, to silvery, to gray-green, to bronze, and even to purple. The 'Burkii' and 'Hoven's Blue' cultivars are grown at Shady Pond Tree Farm

Although they are slow growing, heights of over 40 feet have been recorded. Eastern redcedars have been known to adjust to shade conditions by remaining dormant until the dominant trees loose their leaves. They then conduct photosynthesis while their taller neighbors are dormant.

The eastern redcedar is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and in almost every state to their east, then northward to the southern Ontario and Quebec. Prior to the availability of plantation grown Christmas trees, wild eastern redcedars were the tree of choice for many in the south. They were chosen for their natural conical shape and ready supply.

The eastern redcedar has a fibrous root system that is useful for erosion control. It is a pioneer species on strip mining sites. It provides cedarwood oil, a natural product used in compounding various fragrances. Redcedar wood is reputed to have natural moth repelling qualities and has been long used in cedar chests, wardrobes and closets. The growth character of the tree limits the lumber to fairly small board sizes.

Eastern redcedar is important to wildlife, too. It provides birds with cover for nesting and roosting. Its foliage, although low in nutritional value, provides an emergency food supply for wildlife in stress. And its fruit is eaten by many species as a source of fat, fiber, calcium and carbohydrates. This forms the basis of a symbiotic relationship the ensures the continued spread of the tree through seed distribution in the animal droppings.

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