Eastern red cedar is a type of evergreen juniper that has a high wildlife value. Silvery-blue berry-like fruits appear on branch tips in late fall and are an important food source for a broad array of birds and mammals. Leaf color is sage to blue-green in summer, turning bronze in winter. Bark is red-brown and exfoliates in long, fibrous strips, becoming grayer and thicker as the tree matures.
Native habitats include woodland edges, fence rows, open meadows and recently disturbed or cleared areas. If not managed, red cedars may crowd out other species. They make an excellent specimen tree when given space to spread out, and work well as a screen or hedge.
Plant at least 1,000 feet from apple and crabapple trees to prevent cedar-apple rust (CAR), a fungal disease that requires both plants to complete its life cycle. CAR can cause serious leaf and fruit-spot damage on apple trees, though it has a minor effect on red cedar. Removing galls as they appear can help control it.
Grows 40’–50' tall with a spread of 8–20'.
Prefers 6+ hours of unfiltered sun, but tolerates part sun.
Grows in well-drained, dry to moist soil. Thrives on neglect and tolerates acidic, alkaline, silty loam, rich, sandy, and clay soils.
Red cedar is a larval host for 29 species of Lepidoptera in central Ohio, including the juniper geometer moth and 8 specialists, among them the juniper hairstreak butterfly and cedar grey moth. Cedar waxwing gets its name from its proclivity for the tree's berries, but over 50 species of birds eat the fruits, including robins, mockingbirds, bluebirds, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, goldfinches, flickers, and grosbeaks. The berries are also an important food source for a long list of mammals: meadow mice, bears, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, skunks, possums, coyotes, and deer.
A variety of insects feed on eastern red cedar, including juniper and arborvitae sawflies, larvae of bark and long-horned beetles, and leafhoppers. Many animals use the dense foliage for shelter and cover. Squirrels and other small mammals use the soft, silvery strips of bark in their nest materials. The twigs and foliage are often eaten by deer.
Medicinal, Edible and Other Uses:
Native Americans made a tea from the twigs as a remedy for sore throats and coughs. Tea from the berries was used for colds, worms, rheumatism, coughs, and to induce sweating. Kiowas chewed the berries and held the liquid in their mouths as a mild antiseptic rinse, and Zuni women took berries to promote uterine recovery after childbirth.
Native Americans dried, soaked and mashed juniper berries for use as a flavoring agent in grains and meat. Eastern red cedar berries take 3 years to mature. Mature berries turn a dark blue underneath the white, waxy, protective coating that is easily rubbed off.
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