Eastern Redcedar, Juniperus virginiana
Attributes: The Eastern Redcedar tree is a common sight on road cuts and in fence rows and abandoned fields throughout most of the plains states and eastern United States, especially where limestone soils are present. It is a tree of reddish wood giving off the scent of cedar chests and its crushed berries provide a whiff of the gin they once flavored. Thanks to its tolerance of heat, salt, a wide range of soils and other adverse conditions, Eastern Redcedar is also put to good use on the farm in windbreaks and in city landscapes for hedges, screens, clumps or even as specimen trees.
Description: Dense pyramid shape excellent for windbreaks and screens. Birds love its berries. Medium green foliage. Likes full sun. Tolerant of most soils. Matures at 40' - 50'.
Wildlife Value: Eastern Redcedar twigs and foliage are eaten by browsers. Seeds are eaten most extensively by cedar waxwings, a grayish-brown bird.. Evergreen foliage provides nesting and roosting cover for sparrows, robins, mockingbirds, juncos, and warblers.
History/Lore/Use: The Eastern Redcedar is an ancient tree, dating to aboriginal America, where fossil evidence indicates it covered large portions of the continent. The early explorers took note of the tree. Arthur Barlowe and Phillip Amadus were quoted as saying the trees were "the tallest and reddest cedars in the world" when they arrived at Roanoke Island in 1564. Colonial craftsmen lost no time in using the wood from the Eastern Redcedar for furniture and fences as it had superior weathering capability and was easy to work with. The wood was a staple of the pencil industry for over a century until supplies became exhausted and the industry switched to more plentiful western cedars. Birds are very fond of the berries, the Cedar Waxwing taking its name from the tree whose fruit is its favorite food.
Moisture: Can withstand occasional flooding, yet has good drought tolerance.
Leaves: The leaves are evergreen. On new growth and young trees, foliage is needle-like; older foliage is scale-like, with each scale about 1/16th of an inch long and compacted to form rounded or 4-sided branchlets.
Flower Color: Greenish-yellow; nondescript.
Bloom Time: April-May.
Fruit Description: Female cones are ovoid, 1/4" across, ripening in one year, abundant in shiny colors of brown to almost blue. Male staminate cones are yellow-brown and borne on separate plants.