Eastern Red Cedar

Juniperus virginiana
Cupressaceae (cypresses)

A small to medium-sized tree, aromatic, evergreen, with a dense, pyramidal (sometimes cylindrical) crown.

Leaves, usually at the end of twigs, are minute, dark green, turning bronze in winter, either scalelike or needlelike.

Trunk is single, tapering; trunk spreads at the base.

Bark light reddish brown, shredding into long, thin, flat strips, the trunk tapering towards the top and spreading at the base.

Twigs flexible, green the first year, reddish brown the second year, aromatic.

Conifers don't technically flower, but pollen is shed March–May. Male and female cones usually on separate trees; male cones small, often abundant, golden brown, produced at tips of twigs; female cones smaller, purplish, about 1/16 inch long.

Fruits August–September; female cones become fleshy, berrylike, about ¼ inch long, dark blue, covered with a white, waxy coating, globe-shaped; flesh sweet, resinous, with odor of gin; seeds within the cone 1–2.

Height: to 50 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs on glades and bluffs; in open, rocky woods, pastures and old fields; and along roadsides and fencerows. Some gnarled cedars on Ozark bluffs are over 1,000 years old. This species invades glades and prairies that are not burned periodically, damaging prairie plants’ ability to survive, and ultimately turning a grassland into a forest; prescribed burning and cutting of woody plants like cedars helps prairies and glades to survive.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common. This tree is host to cedar-apple rust, which is certain stages makes brown spots on the leaves of apple, hawthorn and crabapple trees. On cedars, the rust is a woody, purple-brown ball that, when moist, develops golden-orange, jelly-like extensions. The rust is generally not a problem for healthy trees, though it is unsightly on its rose-family hosts and can cause problems for apple orchards.
Human connections: 
The red, aromatic wood is used for chests, closets, interior finish, posts, pencils and other objects. An oil from the resin is used for ointments, soaps and to flavor gin. The tree has been cultivated since 1664, and old specimens are prominent in many old cemeteries, farmyards and neighborhoods.
Ecosystem connections: 
The fruit is eaten by many species of birds and mammals—cedar waxwings are named for their preference for the fruits. The thick crowns provide nesting and roosting cover for many birds. As a colonizer, cedar plays an early role in transforming a damaged, stripped landscape back into a forest.
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