Eastern Red Cedar Tree Facts: Here's All You Should Know! | Kidadl


Eastern Red Cedar Tree Facts: Here's All You Should Know!

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The eastern red cedar tree is also called the red cedar, eastern juniper, pencil cedar, and red juniper.

As its botanical name Juniperus virginia indicates, this tree is not a cedar, but a juniper. This evergreen ornamental tree belongs to the cypress family (Cupressaceae) and is commonly found in eastern and central North America.

During the winter days, birds and mammals take up shelter in this tree, as it doesn't lose its leaves all year round, unlike the other trees near it. With healthy growth, the fragrant, delicate-looking branches give a decorative appearance to landscapes.

Classification Of The Eastern Red Cedar Tree

Being one of the two varieties of red cedar (the other being the western red cedar), the eastern juniper itself has two varieties.

  • Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana is the eastern juniper/red cedar. This variety is found throughout the eastern USA from Maine to Florida.
  • The cones of this subspecies of the eastern juniper are larger, the scale-like leaves are sharp at the tips, and the bark has a reddish-brown color.
  • The other variety of the eastern juniper is Juniperus virginiana var. silicicola. This is known as southern or sand juniper/red cedar. The Latin words silex and -cola for this variety mean flint-dweller.
  • This subspecies of the eastern juniper is found mainly throughout Florida, the southeast coast of the USA, and parts of Texas.
  • The cones are smaller, the scale-like leaves are blunt at the tips, and the bark is orange-brown.

Characteristics Of The Eastern Red Cedar Tree

This tree has a distinctive appearance, owing to its unique characteristics.

  • With a pyramidal shape, the foliage of this tree is blue-green or green and needlelike. The foliage grows as alternate leaves and double-toothed. They grow up to 40 ft (12 m) high.
  • The tree's inner bark is a bright orange color, while the outer bark is light brown. As the tree matures, this color turns into an ashy gray. The wood of this tree is naturally rot-resistant.
  • Typically, rounded gray or bluish-green fruits are borne by the tree, that resemble berries, but are actually fleshy cones.
  • Female trees have little blue spherical fruits that decorate the tree naturally. The fruit has about one to four seeds that are usually spread by birds. The barely noticeable flowers are spiky and small.
  • Male trees have pollen cones, which are tiny, tan pine cones. These male cones help in pollination, which occurs at the end of the winter, and the red cedars flower early in the spring.
  • While this tree usually serves an ornamental purpose, with its pyramidal foliage, the fruit and the tender young branches contain volatile oils, used in medicines, in addition to guarding the tree as a natural insect repellant.
  • A variety of birds feast on red cedar berries, most commonly being devoured by cedar waxwings, while the tender branches are often consumed by larger hoofed animals.
  • With deep roots, the red cedar has a good drought resistance, while also being able to withstand occasional flooding.
  • The fragrant wood of this tree is a reddish-brown color, is quite durable, and is used for fence posts, closet paneling, and cedar chests.
  • The red cedar is also used to make juniper tea that is known to calm the nerves, apart from relieving your headaches.
  • An interesting fact is that the eastern cedar trees were used as Christmas trees quite commonly back in the day.
The eastern red cedar tree facts have mentioned that birds, such as this Eastern bluebird, consume the fruits of the red cedar.

Habitat And Growth Requirements Of The Eastern Red Cedar Tree

You'll be quite surprised to know the diverse conditions under which the eastern red cedars could grow in.

  • Being robust, this cedar tree can grow and thrive in various types of soil, from river banks to dry rocky slopes or bluffs. Hence, these are found in forests, prairies, pastures, or even limestone hills.
  • The tree grows in soils that are acidic, alkaline, clayey, richly moist, sandy, and silty loam.
  • With a medium growth rate, the height of the red cedar increases 13-24 in (33-61 cm) each year.
  • This tree requires full sun for ideal growth, implying that at least six hours of direct, full sun is needed each day.
  • The red cedars are usually not planted close to apple, pear, or quince trees because of cedar-apple rust. These fungal disease damages the leaves and fruits of these trees, although not causing much harm to the host red junipers.
  • As this cedar species is resistant to the extremes of drought, heat, and cold, despite global warming now and in the future, these trees will be around for a very long time.

Lifespan And Distribution Of The Eastern Red Cedar Tree

The evergreen coniferous red juniper is distributed across a wide range of lands.

  • This hardy tree species is unusually long-lived and has the potential to live for over 900 years. Typically, the lifespan of the eastern cedar is 100-300 years.
  • The red cedar dates back to almost 1564 when it was first observed at Roanoke Island, Virginia. The explorers of this cedar species considered this as the tallest and reddest cedars in the world.
  • Back then, it was valued by the colonists as it was used to build furniture, rail fences, and log cabins.
  • This was because the wood had the ability to withstand extreme weather and was easy to work with.
  • While the national origin of red junipers is the eastern USA and Canada, these are the native plants in 37 states.
  • The red cedar is distributed over a wide range of places, from Nova Scotia to Ontario, across the northern Great Plains through eastern Texas, northern Florida, and then to the Atlantic coast.
  • Having read so many red cedar facts, you're definitely going to recognize this tree when you spot one the next time.
Written By
Lydia Samson

<p>A diligent and driven mass communications graduate from Caleb University, Lydia has experience in media and a passion for digital marketing and communications. She is an effective communicator and team-builder with strong analytical, management, and organizational skills. She is a self-starter with a positive, can-do attitude.</p>

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