Juniperus virginiana L.

eastern red cedar

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Eastern red cedar is a small, conical tree that commonly colonizes fields after agriculture is abandoned. It has two types of leaves: spreading prickly ones on young shoots and seedlings, and tightly overlapping scale-like leaves on the mature branches. Birds, including the cedar waxwing, eat the waxy blue berry-like cones. People use the fragrant red-and-white wood for fenceposts, lining cedar closets, and, in the last century, manufacturing millions of pencils. This species hosts the apple-cedar rust, a fungus that forms galls on apples; thus, many trees have been felled to prevent transmission, a practice that favors "cider over cedar."

Habitat

Forests, meadows and fields, woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Growth form
  • the plant is a shrub (with multiple stems, or prostrate, growing close to the ground)
  • the plant is a tree
Leaf form
the leaves are scale-like
Leaf cross-section
the needle-like leaves are flattened (can't be rolled between the fingers)
Leaf arrangement
there are two needle-like leaves per node
Seed cone form
the seed cone is formed from a berry-like cone with leathery scales
Leaf clustering
the needle-like leaves are single, with two per node
Seed cone shape
the seed cone is globose (spherical)
Leaves overlapping
the needle-like leaves are tightly overlapping so that they hide the twig surface
Show All Characteristics
  • Fruits or seeds
    Seed cone base
    NA
    Seed cone bracts
    NA
    Seed cone form
    the seed cone is formed from a berry-like cone with leathery scales
    Seed cone scales
    NA
    Seed cone shape
    the seed cone is globose (spherical)
    Seed cone symmetry
    the seed cone is symmetrical
    Seed cone umbo position
    NA
    Seed cone umbo spine
    NA
    Seed wings
    there are no wings on the seeds
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    • the plant is a shrub (with multiple stems, or prostrate, growing close to the ground)
    • the plant is a tree
  • Leaves
    Leaf arrangement
    there are two needle-like leaves per node
    Leaf base
    NA
    Leaf clustering
    the needle-like leaves are single, with two per node
    Leaf cross-section
    the needle-like leaves are flattened (can't be rolled between the fingers)
    Leaf duration
    the needle-like leaves remain green all winter
    Leaf form
    the leaves are scale-like
    Leaf glands
    the needle-like leaves have glands on the underside
    Leaf stalks
    the needle-like leaves do not have a leaf stalk
    Leaf types
    there are two distinct types of needle-like leaves on the twig
    Leaves overlapping
    the needle-like leaves are tightly overlapping so that they hide the twig surface
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • forests
    • meadows or fields
    • woodlands
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Bark resin blisters
    there are no resin blisters on the bark
    Leaves on shoots
    the needle-like leaves do not grow in tight clusters on a short, knob-like shoot
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hair type
    the twigs have few or no hairs on them
    Twig hairs
    the twig does not have hairs

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. virginiana

Massachusetts
widespread (S-rank: S5)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Chamaecyparis thyoides:
seed cone spherical, with dry scales and outer surface of leaf with an elongate gland (vs. J. virginiana, with seed cone resembling a blue berry and outer surface of leaf with a circular gland).
Juniperus horizontalis:
depressed or trailing shrubs with seed cones borne on curved stalks and containing mostly 3-5 seeds (vs. J. virginiana, which are upright shrubs or small trees with seed cones borne on straight stalks and containing mostly 1 or 2 seeds).

Synonyms

  • Juniperus virginiana ssp. crebra (Fern. & Grisc.) E. Murr.
  • Juniperus virginiana var. crebra Fern. & Grisc.
  • Sabina virginiana (L.) Antoine

Family

Cupressaceae

Genus

Juniperus

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our variety is Juniperus virginiana L. var. virginiana.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

3.  Juniperus virginiana L. var. virginiana N

eastern red cedar. Juniperus virginiana L. ssp. crebra (Fern. & Grisc.) E. Murr.; J. virginiana L. var. crebra Fern. & Grisc.; Sabina virginiana (L.) Antoine • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Dry fields and hillsides, woodlands, and forest openings in sandy or rocky soils.

2×3. Juniperus horizontalis × Juniperus virginiana This rare hybrid juniper is known from ME, NH. It shows intermediacy in discriminating characters, such as habit, seed cone size, peduncle morphology, and number of seeds (see identification key).