Eastern Redcedar, a Common Tree in North America

Juniperus virginiana, a Top 100 Common Tree in North America

Eastern redcedar is not a true cedar. It is a juniper and the most widely distributed native conifer in the Eastern United States. It is found in every state east of the 100th meridian. This hardy tree is often among the first trees to occupy cleared areas, where its seeds are spread by cedar waxwings and other birds that enjoy the fleshy, bluish seed cones.

The Hardy Eastern Redcedar Tree

Eastern red cedar tree
Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), close-up, autumn. (Philip Nealey/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Redcedar is an evergreen growing 40 to 50 feet tall in an oval, columnar, or pyramidal form (very diverse) and spreading 8 to 15 feet when given a sunny location. Red cedar develops a brownish tint in winter in the north and is sometimes used in windbreaks or screens.

The Silviculture of Eastern Redcedar

eastern redcedar tree
Foliage and cone, St. Joseph Twp., Ontario. (Fungus Guy/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), also called red juniper or savin, is a common coniferous species growing on a variety of sites throughout the eastern half of the United States. Although eastern redcedar is generally not considered to be an important commercial species, its wood is highly valued because of its beauty, durability, and workability.

The Images of Eastern Redcedar

old eastern redcedar tree
Old Eastern Juniper Juniperus virginiana and past it the Mississippi River forming the Wisconsin/Iowa border from Hanging Rock at Effigy Mounds. (Archbob/Wikimedia Commons/CC0)

Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of Eastern redcedar. The tree is a conifer and the lineal taxonomy is Pinopsida > Pinales > Cupressaceae > Juniperus virginiana L. Eastern Redcedar is also commonly called southern juniper, southern red cedar and cedar.

The Range of Eastern Redcedar

Distribution map of eastern redcedar
Natural distribution map for Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana (eastern redcedar) shown in green and Juniperus virginiana var. silicicola (southern redcedar) shown in red. (Elbert L. Little, Jr./U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Wikimedia Commons)

Eastern redcedar is the most widely distributed conifer of tree size in the Eastern United States and is found in every State east of the 100th meridian. The species extends northward into southern Ontario and the southern tip of Quebec. The range of eastern redcedar has been considerably extended, especially in the Great Plains, by natural regeneration from planted trees.

Fire Effects on Eastern Redcedar

(usfwshq/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

"In the absence of fire, eastern redcedar thrives and may eventually dominate prairie or forest vegetation. Prescribed fire is generally effective at controlling eastern redcedar invasion in grasslands. Spring burning is appropriate for eastern redcedar treatment because leaf water content is relatively low in late spring. Spring burns usually kill eastern redcedar up to 3.3 feet (1 m) tall, though larger trees up to 20 feet (6 m) are occasionally killed."

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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "Eastern Redcedar, a Common Tree in North America." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2021, thoughtco.com/eastern-redcedar-common-tree-north-america-1342774. Nix, Steve. (2021, September 3). Eastern Redcedar, a Common Tree in North America. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/eastern-redcedar-common-tree-north-america-1342774 Nix, Steve. "Eastern Redcedar, a Common Tree in North America." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/eastern-redcedar-common-tree-north-america-1342774 (accessed January 30, 2023).