Our most common native evergreen is the eastern red cedar, a cone-shaped juniper with a spicy yuletide aroma. Its prickly, scale-like leaves are quite different from those of spruce, fir or pine. But its 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.
The Eastern 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.
For more on the Eastern red cedar, visit MDC's Field Guide.