Discover Nature NotesMore posts

Missouri's Spicy Evergreen

Dec 04, 2017

Our most common native evergreen is the eastern red cedar, a cone-shaped juniper with a spicy yuletide aroma. It's prickly, scale-like leaves are quite different from those of spruce, fir or pine. But it's symmetrical shape and fresh scent make cedar a yuletide choice.

Most red cedars don't end up as Christmas trees, and those that stay outside add green to winter's landscape. Cedar branches can be loaded with blue berries from fall through winter. The berries attract living ornaments in the form of robins, bluebirds and cedar waxwings. Sometimes scores of these birds feast on a cedar, gorging themselves on the high energy fruit.

Cedars are especially beautiful when draped with new-fallen snow. Their dense branches shelter birds at night and during storms. They also protect deer and rabbits from energy sapping winds. Come spring, mockingbirds, robins and mourning doves will seek these same protective branches for their nests.

See how many birds you can find in cedar trees this festive month.

Hail, Cedar!

The Red Cedar’s 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.
  • The tree’s 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. This tree is host to cedar-apple rust, which in 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.

For more on the red cedar,visit our MDC Field Guide.

Eastern red cedar_07.jpg

Eastern Red Cedar tree draped in snow
Eastern Red Cedar
Eastern Red Cedar tree draped in snow

Cedar_Waxwing022.jpg

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing with berry

Eastern red cedar_18.jpg

eastern red cedar berries
eastern red cedar berries

eastern_redcedar.jpg

eastern redcedar tree
Eastern Redcedar

Eastern red cedar_13.jpg

eastern red cedar branch
eastern red cedar branch

Recent Posts

Drawing of spotted salamander

Salamander Sway for Valentines Day

Feb 12, 2018

SALAMANDER SWAY FOR VALENTINES DAY: The song "Sway", first made popular by Dean Martin, would choreograph well with the ritual water dance of spotted salamanders. Shortly after Valentine's Day, on the first warm rains of late winter/early spring, hundreds will gather in ponds and sway and swim with a marimba type rhythm. It can look like a flash mob during this brief window of their breeding season. Learn more about spotted and other salamanders in this week's Discover Nature Note.-- Peg@MDC

coyote in snow

Winter Wildlife Games

Feb 05, 2018

WINTER WILDLIFE GAMES: While humans compete for sport and honor at the Olympics, Missouri's wildlife are busy hunting, playing and competing for survival. They can be seen performing feats of strength, speed and endurance throughout the Show Me State. Learn more about the competitive skills of Missouri wildlife and see a video of them in action in this week's Discover Nature Notes.

Groundhog weather cartoon

Groundhogs and their Day

Jan 29, 2018

GROUNDHOGS AND THEIR SPECIAL DAY: With their own holiday and the most watched weather forecast of the year, groundhogs have reigned through folklore as a predictor of how much winter is left in the season. In some places, people gather to see if they will see their shadow on February 2. A lesser known fact about groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, is that they are also excellent home builders. Learn more about groundhogs as well as the answer to the age old question of "how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Archive

Field Guide

Discovering nature from A-Z is one click away

Recipes

You had fun hunting, catching or gathering your quarry—now have more fun cooking and eating it.
Check out the recipes