Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Juniperus virginiana

As I prepared to do my posting on the Eastern Redcedar I started in the Learning Garden. I knew we had a few specimen labeled. As I feel I am still a beginner in the tree ID department, I find it beneficial starting with the known. Here starts my trip down the rabbit hole. I took my photos and came home to do more research. Using my reference books I started reading and learning about this tree.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the reference to scale like needles……this isn't scale like! Oh no, what was the tree in the Learning Garden? Was it really a Juniperus virginiana? I looked at the Redcedars on my street. One of these trees had scale like needles….so was this an Eastern Redcedar? The more I read and looked closely the more confused I got.

I enlisted Carol while we were in the Learning Garden to look at the labeled tree and then another tree that was close to our Bearded Hedgehog. We investigated both trees (of course they are at opposite ends of the garden) and decided we needed to go over to the Cooperative Extension Office. Using the library in the office we continued to be confused. At one point we thought we had an Eastern Redcedar sample and a Southern Redcedar sample. Finally we read on the Virginia Tech website the following sentence- "Leaf: Evergreen, very small, with two types of leaves (often on the same tree)," The same tree!!! We were looking at the different leaves and getting more and more confused and now we see it is a tree that has two types of leaves. Mystery solved….sort of. What about the Southern Redcedar?
It wasn't until my continued reading online last night that I further learned that the two Redcedars are not always separated, this according to the Forestry Department publication. Additionally Oregon State publication says J. virginiana hybridizes with other junipers. So, like some of the oaks, what we are looking at could be a hybrid. Duke states that there is a debate whether Southern Redcedar, Juniperus silicicola is recognized as a variety of Eastern Redcedar or a full species.
The Eastern Redcedar is a native to North America. It can be found in every state east of the Mississippi River. It can tolerate a wide range of soils and is salt tolerant. The tree is dioecious and is said to reach its sexual maturity in about 10 years. The female tree has the beautiful blue berries. This is a great source of food and shelter for many birds and animals in the woods. The seeds are readily deposited by birds. This tree is hardy from zones 2- 9. It grows on a single trunk to about 50 feet tall, though there are reports of specimen reaching close to 100 feet. It is broad columnar in shape. The bark is quite attractive, rusty brown and looks shredded.

Uses of the Redcedar are varied. The wood is used commercially because of its beauty. The oil of the cedar wood is used for fragrance compounds. The tree is used for Christmas trees. The berries are used in the making of gin. I use a German cousin to the Juniperus virginiana to make my Sauerbraten, Sauerkraut and other German dishes.
Pests on this tree most often noted are the bagworm caterpillars. This can be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis or handpicked. It is recommended that it not be planted near apple trees as the cedar-apple rust can damage the apple crop.
Additional resources- Forestry Service Silvics Manual- as always a great scientific resource
The Gymnosperm Database- nice quick reference with information on the oldest specimen found, 795 years old in Missouri.
Discover Life- wonderful photos showing detail of J. virginiana

Next week's tree- China-fir


  1. Your research adventures gave us lots of interesting tidbits about this tree. Two types of leaves! Who knew?

  2. I was going to say the Eastern red cedar does hybridize all the time. You should the variety here. Some weep, some are upright. Quite a mix but I call them all the same-Eastern red cedar. I pull the seedlings out of my gardens all the time and it is hard. They have a tap root. Once I dug three cedars about 5 feet tall and replanted them in my yard as a screen. Two died but one survived. Coincidentally the two that died were different from the one that survived. Digging the tap root sure didn't help. I love them here. They are great for roosting birds. You do have to watch for cedar apple rust gall though. A pesky thing in warm damp weather. Some trees seem immune, others not so. I think the hybridizing helps it. Sorry such a long book...

  3. Very interesting! I had two trees that looked like those when I bought this house. Next thing I knew, these horrible looking creatures were taking over...bagworms. I had never heard of them until then. They destroyed two trees but I was able to save the big cedar in the corner of the yard.

  4. Hi Janet, ERC is one of my favorite trees...Maybe because it's one of TN's few native evergreens and is so happy in my garden. I have two cultivars 'Gray Owl' a rather nice shrub version with exceptionally pretty gray coloring and the narrow Burkii. Of course we also have the species which wants to start it's own tree farm here. Gail

  5. It can be hard to tell which plants are what, especially when they can have two different leaf types. What great research you did. One plant I can think of that has two different leaves is a vine called Creeping Fig.

  6. Interesting and informative! And a beautiful tree. :)

  7. Excellent treatise on the Eastern Red Cedar. We have four, two behind the house, one in front of the equipment barn and one down the drive southwest of the house. They are about 35 years old and except for the one that a windstorm took most of the limbs (it looks more like a cedar of Lebanon now) they look like huge Christmas trees.

    It is traditional in the old South to use them as Christmas trees, despite the fact that they're not the most attractive conifer for that purpose and the ornaments look kind of intrusive in the branches. The best thing about having a juniper Christmas tree is the fragrance.

  8. Another tree with so many memories for me, and after the Loblolly, the most prolific evergreen on the Eastern Shore. Like Nell Jean, this was a Christmas tree for me several times. I also love seeing the old plantation and farm entrances lined with them. Thanks again for another good choice.

  9. Isn't the difference between juvenile and mature foliage amazing?

    And, as such a widespread species, the genetic variation is evident in Eastern Red Cedar, too.

    The 'red cedars' I grew up with in Central Texas don't look very similar to the ones growing here in South Carolina!


  10. Interesting post! We have a few on our farm and they stand out distinctly from the pines and wax myrtles. I wouldn't want them as a Christmas tree though. When my husband was growing up his family used to cut down a young cedar on his grandmother-in-law's property for a Xmas tree. Ouch! They're not really trees you can hug, especially when they're young.

  11. eastern red cedars do vary quite
    a bit from one another, in my neighborhood alone there are tall
    weeping ones,tall skinny ones,short
    blobby fat ones, tall wispy thinly
    leaved ones,tall conical bushy ones
    and more, sometimes all the way to the ground,sometimes a distinct trunk,they also vary in the shape and hue of the berries and the shape of the scales, the spikey leaves are juvenile foliage,once the tree matures the foliage becomes scale like, this is a common trait among Cupressaceae, redwoods do it too.
    I find the greatest variations in cedar glades because the habitat varies from the norm there, including what seems to be a sand cedar like natural cultivar with squared off deep blue berries and shorter,stouter foliage that is incredibly hardy by comparison to the already hardy cedars in the area,and sprouts up and grows well in a dry crack in the limestone where regular cedars
    seem to fail.
    Such an interesting species, they are one of my favorite trees as well, thankyou for sharing!

  12. Janet,
    As a;ways I learned something new about a tree I'm very familiar with. Don't tell meg you can make gin from the berries.

  13. The Aha moment, Janet, I love it! These trees are everywhere here in southeast TN, a weed actually. They are lovely, but seem to have been overplanted or decided to overplant themselves along every highway in the area and beyond, including my garden. They are easy to pull when small, unlike the oaks and walnuts that have roots to China before you even notice them. Thanks for your detective work too, glad you found the answer! :-)

  14. Janet the bird you described sounds like a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. They chirp a lot as they feed too and often go around in small flocks.

  15. So interesting, Janet! I have so much to learn about identifying trees, and this one would have had me completely stumped. Kudos to you for sticking with your research to figure out what it was. Hybrids have to make the i.d. process even more difficult.

    I've never made sauerkraut before, but I've seen recipes calling for juniper berries--aha, I never made the connection:)

  16. The shape of them is what I like Janet. You can often see many of them around here where once stood an old house other than that I do not see very many in yards.

  17. How interesting this Cedar Topic! Glad you solved your mystery. I so hope they dont destroy your gardens when doing the sewage work but also hope you have a proper working sewer in the end. So hang in there! The hedgehog on the tree is so neat. Looks like a real hedgehog type critter :)

  18. Hi Megan, I know now about those two types of leaves! wow!

    Hi Tina, there IS a big mix of junipers. thanks for the additional info.

    Hi Deborah, bagworms are rotten! Glad you were able to save one of the trees.

    Hi Gail, sure is a nice evergreen tree. There are lists of a lot of cultivars...your Gray Owl sounds nice with the gray coloring.

    Hi Noelle, I don't know the Creeping Fig, will have to check it out.

    Hi Nancy, thanks!

    Hi Catherine, thanks!

    Hi Nell Jean, thank you! These trees are certainly a mainstay in the landscape.

    Hi Les, wow, I am batting 1000! thanks!

    Hi Lisa, it is amazing. (and confusing!) I remember the 'scrub cedars' in central Texas...adapting to their environment I guess.

    Hi Sweetbay, Ouch is right! I collected a small branch to look at more closely and it kept sticking me.

    Hi JJ, we have lots of different shaped junipers in our neighborhood too, that was part of the confusion. I like the blue berries..just a different color.

    Hi Randy, glad you learned something new! You will have to decide about telling Meg. ;-)

    Hi Frances, it was truly an AHA moment! thanks!

    Hi Sweetbay, thanks!

    Hi Rose, it is all about using as many reference materials as you can....and sitck to it.
    So are you going to go out and buy some juniper berries? I first learned of them in Germany and always called them Wacholderbeeren...so when I found the translation I was surprised.

    Hi Lona, I like the shape too..great tree.

    Hi Skeeter, I am glad to have solved it too! The hedgehog is still there! It does look like a little hedgehog.

  19. Goodness Janet ~ you are a dedicated researcher. You went to pretty great lengths to ID this one. Good job. You will be the resident "go-to" tree person for sure when your chronicles are over. My neighbor just cut down a couple cedars (not sure which ones) last fall and it was such a bummer for me. The birds used those trees all the time ~ I think they are invaluable in the landscape.


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