Juniperus virginiana


Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is also known as Pencil Wood, Juniper Bush, Pencil Cedar, Virginia Juniper, Red Cedar, Red Savin, Carolina Cedar, and Red Juniper. It is a small to medium-sized native evergreen tree to 70 ft. The plants are dioecious with separate male and female trees. The male cones are small, terminal, solitary, and oblong-ovoid. The female cones are aromatic, fleshy, berry like, globular, 0.25 0.4" diameter, glaucous, and turn dark blue to purplish. The seeds are bony, ovoid, and 1 to 3 per cone. The bark is light reddish brown, separating into large fibrous strips. There are two kinds of leaves, both usually found on the same tree. The more common kind is dark green, minute, scale-like and clasping the stem in four ranks so that the stem appears square. The other kind, usually appearing on vigorous young shoots, is awl-shaped, quite sharp-pointed, spreading and whitened. Very young trees bear this kind of leaf only, which gives them a different appearance from that of the old trees. Some people say Baton Rouge (Red Stick) is named after the Eastern Red Cedar because the Indians were carrying the pole made from it. Eastern Red Cedar has been often used as a Christmas tree. The light, brittle, soft wood weighs 30-33 lb per cu ft. The heart is wine red and the sapwood pure white. It is used for cabinets, pails, novelties, posts, poles, woodenware, millwork, paneling, sills, closets, shavings, wardrobe chests, and pencils. The dry bark is used as the tinder in flint and steel or sunglass fire sets. The leaves are used as a stimulant and the Indians used the leaves as incense. The female cones, leaves, and twigs are boiled and inhaled to treat bronchitis. The boiled mixture of bark and water is used to treat skin rash. The extract of cedar oil is used as perfume, moth repellent, insecticide, and immersion oil in microscopes, scenting soaps, and causing abortions. Gin derives its characteristic taste and odor from juniper female cones. The female cones also are used as a spice and after roasting are used as a very poor substitute for coffee. The wood is quite resistant to decay when in contact with the soil. Eastern Red Cedar is a favorite in old country graveyards, where, to the imagination of our forebears, perhaps, its finger seemed to point to heaven and its evergreen boughs spoke symbolically of life eternal. But another superstition in parts of Louisiana is “Do not plant a cedar tree because when it gets big enough to shade your grave, you will die”. The cedar is the host for cedar apple rust, which alternates from cedar to apple trees or apple relatives like hawthorn and crabapple for us. I was told that years ago, in West Virginia a law was passed that allowed apple orchard owners to go onto their neighbor’s property and cut down cedar trees to present the spread of cedar apple rust. This led to slogans like “cider or cedar” from the apple orchard owners and “pencils or pomes” from the cedar growers. Twig-laden bagworm cocoons are also frequent on the branches. Eastern Red Cedar is the state tree of Tennessee. Common throughout Louisiana in open well drained but disappears from an area with the onset of shaded conditions. We have lots of this species on Allen Acres and have given away many and transplanted trees in a circle to create a “Circle of Cedars”. I am in the midst of making a second labyrinth using eastern red cedar, the first is made from vetiver grass. Used in other ways around Allen Acres including a dead one for the cd tree. The caterpillars of the butterfly (Juniper hairstreak) use eastern red cedar plus many moth species including: cecropia silkmoth, Common Eupithecia, Curve-lined Angle, Dark-spotted Palthis, Evergreen Bagworm Moth, Fall Webworm Moth, Fruit-tree Leafroller Moth, imperial moth, Juniper budworm, Juniper-twig Geometer, Many-lined Angle, Omnivorous Leaf-roller, and White-marked Tussock Moth.