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Eastern Red Cedar

Scientific name: Juniperus virginiana

This native juniper is a dense, slow growing evergreen. Depending on the soil and sun, it can grow as high as 50 feet, or remain a shrub-like 15 feet. It is also referred to as a coniferous evergreen, as it belongs to the class of trees which bear cones containing seeds.

It is also a pioneer species which means that it is among the first trees to populate an area that has been disturbed or damaged. Most interesting is that this can be a very long lived tree, achieving as many as 900 years!

Cedar wood has a natural insecticide which keeps it from rotting, making it popular for use as fence posts by farmers and for cedar closets for storing clothes.

Images courtesy of the Missouri Department of Environmental Conservation

Credit Paul Nelson
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Habitat

It can be found in old fields, along highways or even in sites that have been disturbed by recent construction. Red cedars grow in the fields at the Old Field Preserve.

Bark

Reddish-brown, peeling in to long strips.

Fruit

Cones appear in August and September. Some trees produce male cones and others, female cones.

Flowers

No flowers, but pollen is shed from March through May.

Ecosystem Connections

The cedar waxwing loves the juniper berry as does the yellow-rumped warbler and it is an important food source for them in winter. Once digested, the seeds are three times more likely to germinate than those seeds which just fall to the ground.

As an evergreen, it provides shelter for the American woodcock and other birds and wildlife.

More on Trees and Shrubs in Lewisboro

Lewisboro was once entirely forested except for patches of open field caused by fire and wetlands and ponds which were expanded by beaver dams. Although it is hard to believe, by 1800 most of Lewisboro’s forests had been cut down and replaced by farms. In 1820 so many trees had been cleared that there was no shade anywhere along the route from Boston to New York.[1] But by the mid-1800’s farming here became uneconomical and as farms were abandoned, the forests began to re-grow. Today, 70% of New York is once again forest, what some call ‘the great environmental story of the United States’[2]. These new forests provide us with beauty and recreation, clean air and water, flood control, erosion prevention, carbon sequestration, cooler temperatures and habitat for other plants, insects, birds and other wildlife.

[1] Cronon, William. Changes in the Land. Macmillan, 1983.

[2] An Explosion of Green. B. Mckibben. Atlantic Monthly 275 (April 1995): 61-83.