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Eastern Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
jew-NIP-er-us ver-jin-ee-AY-nah
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Eastern Redcedar is an evergreen tree that may grow 30 to 40 feet tall. The tree has scale-like, closely oppressed, glandular leaves. The bark is red-brown in color, exfoliating in long, fibrous strips, often ashy gray where exposed. Small, light blue-green clusters of flowers mature in late winter or early spring. The tree produces a nearly spherical blue fruit which matures in the fall on female trees.

The heartwood is light brown and aromatic, contrasted by the white sapwood, and is commonly used for cedar chests.  The wood is also often used to make fence posts and rails as it is naturally rot resistant.  It also repels insects, lending to its appeal for use in clothing storage and pet bedding.

The Eastern red cedar is easily grown in average, dry to moist, well-drained soils in full sun.  It will tolerate a wide range of soils and growing conditions, from swamps to dry rocky glades.  It can even grow on seemingly barren soils that few other plants can tolerate.  It prefers moist soils but is intolerant of constantly wet soils.  It only tolerates the shade when it is extremely young. It has the best drought resistance of any conifer native to the eastern U.S.

This tree is an easy to transplant, tough, dependable tree, but considered weedy by many gardeners.  It is highly salt tolerant.  This colorful tree needs airy space to grow.  It makes an excellent specimen and does well in a grouping or as a screen. 

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  This tree is susceptible to twig blight and scale. Bagworms are also a problem. Mites may occur.  It shares susceptibility to a rust fungus with apples called Gymnosporangium junipreri - virginianae  It causes "cedar apples" on red cedar twigs and dark leaf spots on apple leaves.

Fire Risk: This plant has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home. Select plants with a low flammability rating for the sites nearest your home. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Plant has grayish to reddish-brown bark that exfoliates in long strips
  • Scale leaves are in a 4 rank arrangement
  • Small, oval, glandular depressions are on the backs of leaves
  • Male cones are yellow and occur at branch tips
  • Female cones are blue, frosted looking, and 1⁄4" in size
  • Leaf color is sage green to blue-green in the summer
  • Leaf color is bronze to yellow-brown in winter
  • Juvenile, awl-shaped leaves are often present in pairs
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#butterflies#evergreen#fruit#songbirds#poisonous#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#native tree#conifer#weedy#salt tolerant#tough plant#cover plant#winter interest#host plant#playground#host#coastal#small mammals#food source#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#fire#high flammability#tscr#NC native#christmas tree#deer resistant#screens#children's garden#Christmas#Braham Arboretum#fantz#poor soils tolerant#food source winter#cover#food source fall
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#butterflies#evergreen#fruit#songbirds#poisonous#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#native tree#conifer#weedy#salt tolerant#tough plant#cover plant#winter interest#host plant#playground#host#coastal#small mammals#food source#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#fire#high flammability#tscr#NC native#christmas tree#deer resistant#screens#children's garden#Christmas#Braham Arboretum#fantz#poor soils tolerant#food source winter#cover#food source fall
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Juniperus
    Species:
    virginiana
    Family:
    Cupressaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The heartwood is light brown and aromatic and is commonly used for cedar chests. Wood is often used to make fence posts and rails as it is naturally rot resistant. This plant was also used by Native Americans to make flutes, furniture, fragrance, mats, incense, and spices. They also used it medicinally.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South East Canada to Central & Eastern U.S.A., Mexico
    Distribution:
    from eastern Canada south through North Dakota west to Colorado south to Texas east to Florida north through Maine, also found in Oregon
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The Eastern red cedar provides winter cover.  It is a host plant for the Juniper Hairstreak butterfly.  Songbirds and small mammals eat the fruits.
    Play Value:
    Buffer
    Fragrance
    Screening
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Nesting
    Wind Break
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    This tree is resistant to damage by deer.
    Edibility:
    EDIBLE PARTS: Juniper tea can be made by placing a dozen young berryless twigs in a quart of cold water; bring to a boil then allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and use as regular tea, in small quantities. SOURCE: Angier, B. 1974. Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pa, 255 pp.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Blue
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Male cones are yellow and occur at branch tips. Female cones are blue, frosted looking, and abundant. Cones are round, berry-like (1/4" in diameter), and ripen in fall the first year. They have a grey-white waxy covering.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    This is a dioecious species (separate male and female trees). The pollen cones are small and yellowish on male trees, while the female trees produce round, berry-like cones.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Leaf Type:
    Needles
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Acicular
    Subulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The Eastern red cedar has dark blue-green, scale-like, shiny, glandular foliage in a 4 rank arrangement. The foliage may turn brown-green in winter. They are 1/16" in length and lay opposite or in whorls of 3. They are small, oval, and have a glandular depression on the back. Young leaves are awl-shaped, thin, prickly, needle-like, and 1/4" long. Cultivars of this species often retain better foliage color in winter.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Light Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Peeling
    Shredding
    Bark Description:
    Its gray to reddish-brown bark exfoliates in thin, long shreddy strips on mature trees.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Screen/Privacy
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Poor Soil
    Salt
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    CAUSES ONLY LOW TOXICITY IF EATEN. Large amounts may cause diarrhea.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Volatile oils including thujone.
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves