Why I like Red Cedar

sam_mdMarch 2, 2013

Pictured here is a common sight found just about anywhere in its native range in eastern US/Canada. Its the Eastern Red Cedar or Juniperus virginiana In my state it is equally at home in the dunes near Ocean City or the calcareous soils of the Hagerstown Valley. Remarkably it seems right at home in the toxic, xeric soils of the serpentine barrens which are also found here. This is a true pioneer species which readily colonizes old fields and roadsides. It cannot tolerate shade or wet conditions.
The beautiful green Olive Hairstreak can be found near this tree because RC is it's larval host.

I bought this bluebird box yesterday and left it in my car over night. When I went out to get it this morning the whole car smelled of cedar, what a great smell. You can tell RC wood because of the contrasting colors and the strong aromatic smell. Also notice the blue berries found on the female trees. They are a food source for countless birds over the winter.
IMO forget Leyland Cypress and plant Red Cedar

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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Couple things:
One reason it's less planted as an ornamental these days is its tendency to turn an ugly purplish-gray-brown in winter. However there are definitely clones that stay green. Whether the wholesale nursery industry still produces them I don't know. I don't know any by name off the top of my head by they are certainly discussed by AL Jacobson and M. Dirr in their respective volumes. I have one of these stay green clones in my garden, which was probably planted in the 1960s, but alas, its top split. Which is reason two they aren't planted very often. If they aren't pruned correctly when young and develop 2 leaders, they are doomed to splitting at some point. When 1/2 of it split a few years ago, I left the other side up, but without the support of the other branch, it broke less than a year later. I left the remaining 10' with the hope of taking cuttings one day...haven't gotten around to it yet. It was very pretty before it broke, it had probably also been selected for a nice fastigiate form.

FWIW I think they are a little tolerant of damp soil, if it's draining damp soil; i.e., a silty or sandy structure that gets runoff but is still relatively oxygenated compared to a dense clay. Mine is an an area of the yard that can get very mucky, but after it rains there will be an oozing sound as the silty top layer dries down.
Link shows a remarkable "upside-down" Red Cedar.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://people.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/juvi.html

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 12:55PM
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WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

A "red cedar" that grows in Russia results in wood chips that are turned into these:

More here.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 1:02PM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)

Here you can find them in shade too - and they stay green in winter. The national champion J. virginiana var. silicicola grows a few miles from here and is a fantastic tree.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 1:08PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Much more squish tolerant than has been stated here, but still a very brittle tree. It doesn't matter how many leaders it has, after it gets to a certain size, a bad storm can knock the top off. That's just the way it is. Anything over 20 ft tall is in danger.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:21PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

You could be right gallica; but I suspect some of the selected cultivars are more strong wooded. Unfortunately, I can't find my ALJ Trees of North America...
I've seen a few tall, stately ones here and there that haven't blown down yet.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:47PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Yep, I've had a few with pretty large trunks just snap in two. Looking at the trunk, you wouldn't imagine it possible but there it is lying on the ground. I'd say it's even pretty common for a large branch or co-leader to snap off of these trees. I still kinda like them because of their adaptability, their great smell, and probably because they were one of the first types of trees I was introduced to as a kid.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 4:59PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Here's an 80 ft. survivor. Sheltered by other trees.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.pabigtrees.com/tree_detail.aspx?tree=TR20101025191335750

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 5:09PM
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lkz5ia

Besides breakage and weediness, also not a lot of love for them because cedar apple rust.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 8:21PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I see them growing in shade all over the place here in sandy soil. They are fairly dense, but small/slow growing. I'm indifferent to them but I do like their somewhat shaggy bark on older specimens.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 9:59PM
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alabamatreehugger(8)

They seem to be variable in their form. I've seen some that look very graceful when mature with a slight weeping habit, but I've also seen others that are ugly and scraggly.

They also grow well in damp soil where I live. It's pretty soggy right now, but they all look fine.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:11PM
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scotjute

My 2nd favorite tree. When I moved from Louisiana to central Tx., they were the only tree that I could take with me that would grow here in alkaline black clay. They are the only dependable native evergreen conifer for this area. They provide evergreen color, shade, screening, berries for birds in winter, cedar lumber, posts, etc. A most useful tree that is tough and drought-resistant and grows where other trees will not.
Not as large or as beautiful as other conifers, yet they have the ability to thrive in tough places where other conifers cannot and this has made them an important conifer.
Twin-leadered trees will split - prune them to single leader while they are young. Once they advance into old age and loose their conical shape they become increasingly suceptible to breakage during harsh wind, ice, and snow storms.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:34PM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

It's amazing to see how tall they get when mixed into a woodland setting. I'll have to take a pic of one near my house one day. Just stunning.

I also enjoy the older/gnarly specimens at local college campuses. Truly pretty.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 4:12AM
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esh_ga

The beautiful blue "berries" are modified cones; these are conifers after all.

Here is a link that might be useful: link to more info

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 7:48AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

They're like alot of other tough-situation trees. Put one in a pampered lawn setting & it'll look & grow much better than its wild cousins.

I can tell where limestone-outcrops are in the wild by looking at where the VA junipers are. Areas in the limestone-studded Cumberland valley can have names such as 'Cedar ridge'.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 8:39AM
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huggorm

I'm not a very big fan of conifers, but I like the Red Cedar. Actually I have a two inch seedling on my windowsill right now, at least that is what I think it is. When it grows larger I will put in the soil outside

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 8:48AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Sorry about the pic quality (old pic w/old camera), but this is a fine specimen near Columbia, MD:

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 9:05AM
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sam_md

I have an Agronomy text from the '70's with a cutaway of the soil profile, I suspect that many here have seen this. The picture in the text, shows an 8 year old Juniperus virginiana with roots excavated to a depth of 16'. Surely this is why the trees can live and thrive in such intolerable conditions.
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Compare RC with Leyland Cypress pictured here. Customers ALWAYS ask for the fastest growing tree to screen out the road or neighbor. Here's what happens to a tree with alot of top but poor root system. Leyland is like a sterile, bi-generic oddity and yet around here the most popular screening plant.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 2:12PM
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vieja_gw(z7NM)

we also have a beautiful 50 + yr.red cedar; the birds all love to sit way up in the top both in winter & summer. This tree has cones so I can assume it is a female? A neighbor complains the 'pollen' is bad for his allergies ... can a female produce both cones & pollen? I notice a few small clusters often fall to the ground but guess this is normal? Wonder how long a red cedar can live? A beautiful tree!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 9:44PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Ya'll are welcome to them. I hate the $%%# things myself. Only form they take around my yard is mulch. But then again they are one of my two allergies. The other allergy doesn't live here, and doesn't bother much most years.

Arktrees

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:28AM
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scotjute

They can live up to about 150 yrs. 70-100 yrs. is probably more common in the wild. Have read about ERC living up to ~ 300 yrs.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 3:27PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"Have read about ERC living up to ~ 300 yrs."

There's one in West Virginia that's 940 years old. There are a number of them over 700 years old.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 3:53PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

From The Gymnosperm Database, here's an Eastern Redcedar car:

Here is a link that might be useful: The Gymnosperm Database

This post was edited by brandon7 on Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 16:08

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:07PM
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gandle(4 NE)

I too hate them. We managed to burn over a 1000 acres of them just south in the canyon country. If left unchecked they will take over grazing land planting prohibited in this area.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:27PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Sam is that somewhere in Harford County? There are SO many McEstates there surrounded by the wall of Leylandii, which, as you point out, eventually ends up looking like this. Not to mention having bag worms and Seridium canker in summer.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:30PM
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j0nd03

I suppose it has been hinted at but not said outright:

ERC is one of the few eastern native pioneer species capable of living a very, very long time. Longer than some oaks, even!

I have two very nice ones probably well over 100 years old on my property. My favorite look for them are the unpruned ones that branch to the ground and form a "skirt" similar in appearance to the spruces. There are several in a yard I see to and from work on a hill with this appearance. Also like the look of the ones covered in berries but honestly the tree is so common, I do despise it for no other reason than I would like to see something else most of the time!

John

Edit: Brandon that car is awesome! IMO it would have looked better with white wall tires, though ;)

This post was edited by j0nd03 on Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 17:09

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:56PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"I too hate them. We managed to burn over a 1000 acres of them just south in the canyon country. If left unchecked they will take over grazing land planting prohibited in this area."

I think you may be getting them mixed up with Saltcedars (an entirely different plant). Juniperus virginiana is a NATIVE to Nebraska. Any plant that is able to grow in an area will populate a vacuum, but Juniperus virginiana should not be that much of an issue. The species certainly isn't a legally prohibited plant there. That's another reason I'm guessing you are getting it mixed up with saltcedars, which are classified as a noxious weed in that state.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 5:15PM
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vieja_gw(z7NM)

Saltcedars are sucking up the water along the Rio Grande & are being destroyed there now so the native shrubs/trees can multiply. The wood I understand burns with a very intense heat & is good firewood. They were good for stabilizing the river banks & birds like them but they do guzzle water if given a chance! I have one in my yard in a corner by an alley & it gets very little additional water. The birds love to nest in it & the pinkish/red fragrant flowers are attractive. Create a mess in the fall when the 'leaves' dry & fall in heaps on the ground. Ket in chec, they can be an attractive tree

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 5:29PM
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vieja_gw(z7NM)

Many years ago a tree that is now called 'Chinese Elm' was introduced here to provide much needed shade in this arid climate. Well, it now has gone 'native' & though not allowed to be sold or planted any more, there is an unlimited natural supply now growing along the streams, arroyos,mesas as the tons of those horrible 'elm seeds' fly miles in the wind in spring & sprout everywhere (just like the so-called 'Tree of Heaven'!). I understand our 'Chinese Elms' are really ? 'Siberian Elms' & the worst of the two! They thrive w/o any additional water & seem to live forever with no diseases. So I guess even the red cedars growing in excess would be despised under those conditions!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 5:45PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

...but this thread is NOT about saltcedars!!!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 5:56PM
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vieja_gw(z7NM)

brandon7: sorry, but I just mentioned another tree that if misplaced or over planted like the red cedar, can be a problem but in another situation can be great....

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 6:07PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

John,
If you have not yet noticed, the native ERC along I-40 Ft. Smith westward tends very strongly to grow in a columnar form. Nearly every tree you see along the road is tall and narrow. Noticed it several years ago while traveling west along 40. Next time your out that way, look around, I'm sure it hasn't changed.

Arktrees

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 6:29PM
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j0nd03

Yep! There are some 30' tall and no more than 3' wide. Incredible variation in growth. I have only seen this variation beside the highway and not in the woods for some reason. I really have no idea what the heck is going on lol

The ones out around OKC also grow in a different manner than the local ones. Not only are they short and fat/wide (to be expected) but their branching also looks a little different.

Speaking of different, the blackjack oaks in the Tulsa area look like a totally different species than the local ones. The leaves look VERY different. Smaller, with pronounced lobing if I remember. The local ones are more duck foot shaped.

John

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 7:46PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

John,
I was not aware of the Blackjack Oaks being different in that area, but then again I'm not over there very often, and when I am, usually not where there are allot of trees. Next time I'm over that way, I will try to keep a watch for them.

Arktrees

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:17PM
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jeff_al

you can work them into the smallest of gardens and condo yards

j. virginiana 'goin' postal'? :-)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 2:15PM
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sam_md

Pictured here is a venerable specimen of Red Cedar from the cemetery of Christ Church in Dover, Delaware. I like how the tree seems to belong there.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 9:18PM
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