Juniperus virginiana


Common Names: Red cedar, eastern redcedar, Virginian juniper, eastern juniper, red juniper, pencil cedar, aromatic cedar
Category: Trees
Sub-category: Cedar

The fine-grained, soft brittle pinkish- to brownish-red heartwood is fragrant, very light and very durable, even in contact with soil. Because of its rot resistance, the wood is used for fence posts. The aromatic wood is avoided by moths, so it is in demand as lining for clothes chests and closets, often referred to as cedar closets and cedar chests. If correctly prepared, it makes excellent English longbows, flatbows, and Native American sinew-backed bows.

A dense slow-growing coniferous evergreen tree that may never become more than a bush on poor soil, but is ordinarily from 5 to 20 m tall, with a short trunk 30 to 100 cm in diameter. The oldest tree reported, from West Virginia, was 940 years old. The bark is reddish-brown, fibrous, and peels off in narrow strips. The leaves are of two types; sharp, spreading needle-like juvenile leaves 5 to 10 cm long, and tightly adpressed scale-like adult leaves 2 to 4 mm long; they are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or occasionally whorls of three. The juvenile leaves are found on young plants up to 3 years old, and as scattered shoots on adult trees, usually in shade. The seed cones are 3 to 7 mm long, berry-like, dark purple-blue with a white wax cover giving an overall sky-blue color (though the wax often rubs off); they contain one to three (rarely up to four) seeds, and are mature in 6 to 8 months from pollination.

Eastern juniper is a pioneer species, which means that it is one of the first trees to repopulate cleared, eroded, or otherwise damaged land. In CT it is fairly common as an ornamental tree in landscaping.

Edible Notes: The cones are used to flavor gin and alcohol spirits. Berries are eaten as a spice in cooking. Juniper oil is distilled from the wood, twigs and leaves.
Warnings: Not known to be dangerous.
Sightings