Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Seriously Cool Red Cedar

Today is the day to write about one of our favorite native Ohio trees: Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). This fabulous tree grows throughout eastern N. America and is a true pioneer of recovering lands. Luckily, it is growing its beautiful self all over our recovering old field.



We practice some serious gratitude when witnessing a native, beneficial tree able to grow quickly, strongly, in all sorts of soil and in sun and shade.


Apparently this tree is difficult to grow in pots. but it sure transplants easily and with almost no shock. We moved more than ten around our property in places where we wanted windbreaks and privacy with zero issues. We planted them densely on the NW corner of our house for winter winds; soon this area will be nicely filled in and offer a great buffer.


Leavin' the magical leaves! One of nature's best gifts....


When we moved here, we initially planted Colorado Blue Spruce and White Pine because our local SWCD offered them and these native Cedars are hands down superior in every way. They outgrow these other conifers every year and with almost no mortality. If we had known this would happen, we would not have planted those other species, which aren't native to this area and are telling us they are not nearly as happy (except for one anomaly White Pine, which is happy as a kitten).



Red Cedars sometimes get a bad rap because they "invade prairies and pasture lands," but it's really all about management and the land's current hydrology, browse factor, etc. Keep them out of the prairies so the prairies can be prairies and pasture can be pasture, but let them grow in old fields and fencerows and yards and recovering forest. Eastern North America had a magnificent, spectacular forest once that we can only dream of and yes, we feel overwhelming grief for what was carelessly destroyed, but we don't dwell in that part of our knowledge because we can't. Instead we plant and plant and plant.


Reforesting a piece of land takes a long time so those trees that are early successional are key to foster slower growing species and to give one hope that the forest will return. That's what Steve and I are called to do...plant. I don't think we've ever been so drawn to anything like this other than hiking and exploring this infinitely interesting and beautiful natural world. There is redemption in such a hope-filled and important act like planting trees. We humans can't turn back the clock, but we can go forward with respect for each other and all life and take significant action to do what is right and to fix what is broken.


Red Cedars provide us with soul-satiating green in a season lacking this life-filled color, while also offering important food and shelter for all sorts of wildlife. We have Cedar Waxwings frequently feasting on the berries, American Robins nesting in them in the warm season by the DOZENS, and potentially Saw-whet Owls resting in them during migration. (Thanks to Stanley Stine with Twinsburg Parks and Recreation for this sweet little tid-bit.)


There are all sorts of little grass nests under these trees from different mammals and beautiful Bagworms hanging from limbs here and there (no they have not ever killed the trees here or ever caused significant damage and even if they did, the trees would most likely recover. One of our oaks regrew all new leaves after complete defoliation by native Datana caterpillars last year.)


The wood smells fabulous and is long lasting. The beautiful, blue, berries (actually, cones) are medicinal, edible and used to flavor gin.


Wow! We are smitten, I guess. Well, really we are smitten with just about everything wild and free and functional.

Thanks to Stanley, again, for sharing a film we want to watch that is completely relevant to this post: Call of the Forest.

We wish you all a joyous harvest season and some significant time outdoors.

For fun since you might have some extra time over Thanksgiving or just need to jam while cooking, here's some tunes I've enjoyed while writing this post:

Lera Lynn Wolf Like Me

Indigenous Things We Do

Mandolin Orange Old Ties and Companions

Samantha Crain Equinox

Joni Mitchell Woodstock

4 comments:

  1. Junipers can be very reviled here in Texas. I don't get it. Especially in the hill country, it is common to see signs about removing the Ashe juniper and complaints about them being a water hog amongst other complaints.

    http://npsot.org/wp/story/2010/1365/

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    1. Hey Misti! You are spot on about this. We just received the Lady Bird Johnson magazine and it has a huge spread on just this topic. It's all about balanced ecosystems and fixing degraded land it seems. I'm glad people are speaking out about this needed and important plant!

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  2. Wonderful post...everything looks great!! I've enjoyed transplanting many here on my property...and the American Holly also, lately I've been transplanting more holly than cedar. The only problem is the deer love to rub on them in the fall and they really mess them up. I purchased 20 seedlings of Red Cedar about 4 yrs ago and most are doing well I did lose 2 of the seedlings, because I accidentally ran over them with the mower! I'm creating a privacy screen on my back boundary in case someone buys that property, The trees will one day create a perfect barrier.

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    1. That's fabulous! Those cedars will fill in so fast, which is why we planted them as our NW windbreak even when they are currently so small. We adore American Holly and hiked in southern OH recently where they grow. It's seriously one beautiful plant. We really love what you are doing on your land and it is so heartening to read about!

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