Eastern Red Cedar -- Juniperus virginiana
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The Eastern Red Cedar is a Juniper tree which grows in Hardiness Zones 2-9. This includes eastern United States through the Plains and into Canada and Mexico. This evergreen pioneer tree does not lose its leaves and grows well in full sun conditions. Historically it was used for furniture, fences, Christmas trees and pencils. It is often used as a windbreak in rural areas or as hedges in cities.
It grows about 13-24 inches each year to a mature height of 40-50 feet. A mature tree may have a foliage spread of about 8-20 feet. It grows deep roots which allow it to live in a wide variety of soil types from moist and rich to clay or sandy with limestone. It is very tolerant of drought. The reddish-brown bark is fibrous and can be peeled off in strips. Its wood is reddish and aromatic.
The typical shape of the Eastern Red Cedar is like a column. Its bluish-green fruit looks like a berry but is made of fused cone scales. The berries provide excellent food for birds like cedar waxwings. Many other birds build nests in the dense evergreen branches including robins, warblers, sparrows, and juncos. In harsh winters, deer,wild turkey, raccoons, rabbits and even coyotes may browse on the branches.
The Eastern Red Cedar's fallen needles can raise the pH of the soil. By holding nitrogen and phosphorus the tree changes the soil acidity and bacteria growth.
Some people are allergic to Eastern Red Cedar pollen. Only the male trees carry the pollen. Only female trees bear fruits. Both are necessary to produce the berry-like fruits which are so highly valued for gin flavoring and wildlife food.
Do not plant Eastern Red Cedar trees near apple trees to avoid cedar-apple rust fungus which may ruin the apple crop. It can be propagated by cuttings or seeds, or simply purchase saplings from a local nursery.