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Eastern Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana


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Eastern Red Cedar, habit
credit: Betty Anderson, North Carolina State Parks

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Family: Cupressaceae, Cypress view all from this family

Description Dense slow-growing tree. Bark reddish-brown, fibrous, and peels off in narrow strips. Leaves of two types; sharp, spreading needle-like juvenile leaves 5–10 cm. (2.0–3.9 in.) long, and tightly adpressed scale-like adult leaves 2–4 mm. (0.079–0.16 in.) long; arranged in opposite decussate pairs or occasionally whorls of three. Juvenile leaves found on young plants up to 3 years old, and as scattered shoots on adult trees, usually in shade. Cones 3–7 cm. (1.2–2.8 in.) long, berry-like with fleshy scales, dark purple-blue with white wax cover giving overall sky-blue color (though the wax often rubs off); they contain one or two (rarely up to four) seeds, and mature in 6–8 months from pollination. Pollen cones 2–3 mm. (0.079–0.12 in.) long and 1.5 mm. (0.059 in.) broad, shedding pollen in late winter or early spring. Trees usually dioecious, with pollen and seed cones on separate trees.

Dimensions Height: 12-18 m. (40-60 ft.)
Diameter: 0.3-0.6 m. (1-2 ft.).

Warning Berries poisonous if eaten in large quantities. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Habitat Scrub, shrub & brushlands, Swamps (fresh & salt).

Range Texas, Great Lakes, Northwest, Plains, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, New England, Florida, Rocky Mountains.

Discussion One of the first trees to repopulate cleared, eroded, or otherwise damaged land. Unusually long lived among pioneer species, with the potential to live for two centuries. The oldest tree reported, from Missouri, was 795 years old. Important winter food for many birds, which disperse the wingless seeds.