I Love Juniperus virginiana aka Eastern red cedar

Jan 7, 2022 | Gardens

Name: Juniperus virginiana aka Eastern red cedar

Type of Plant: Needled evergreen tree native to Eastern North America, hardy in Zones 2-9.

Why I Love This Plant: This is one of those “Rodney Dangerfield plants” in our area – it gets no respect. And the reason is that it commonly grows in wild places, and seeds in yards and gardens, often where you don’t want a tall tree to be. This is because the birds plant the seeds when they sit in trees or shrubs in your yard. But I encourage you to leave some, move young ones to places where they can grow large, because of those berries. This tree supports a great deal of wildlife, including over 50 species of birds. Mammals that eat the berries or the foliage include rabbits, foxes, raccoons, skunks, opossums, coyotes, and deer.

These junipers are also wind and salt tolerant, so very well suited for this region.

A Word to the Wise:  These are interesting plants because they vary so much from tree to tree. Since they’re usually seed propagated, they can be thin and full, or lean and lanky. Some females have light blue berries and others have dark blue berries. And some stay green in the winter while others turn a rusty brown. So a good plant for the curious and flexible native plant lover…but maybe not for the person who wants a line of identical soldiers.

This is an Eastern red cedar on my property. It’s a female, with berries that are a light blue. At a certain time in the winter, the robins, bluebirds and many others come and within two or three days, the fruit is devoured! 

This is a red cedar in Marstons Mills, where I walk my dog. The berries on the plants in this area are especially dark, showing how these seed-propagated plants can vary.

Another example of how these plants vary. As I took a walk at a park in Osterville today, I saw this bird-planted J. virginana that was more open than many. Part of that is undoubtedly the genetics, but also contributing to this open growth is the place where the plant grew. It’s in and among taller trees, which give this plant some shade.


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