Eastern redcedar berries

Berries of Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana). Photo: Miri Talabac

Updated: September 22, 2022

About Eastern Redcedar

Juniperus virginiana
Evergreen tree

Maryland Distribution: Mountain, Piedmont, and Coastal regions
Height: 40’-70’; most cultivated varieties are much smaller
Flowers: inconspicuous yellow-green flowers in February-April; usually dioecious (male and female flowers are on separate plants); wind-pollinated
Fall color: evergreen; may develop a bronze color in winter
Sun: full sun
Soil: any soil type; dry to medium moisture; pH 5-8

Garden Uses: Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), or Eastern juniper, is native to the Eastern United States and all regions of Maryland. It is a pioneer species – a type of plant that is capable of being among the first to grow in barren clearings and disrupted habitats. It is a very adaptable tree, tolerant of poor, gravelly soils; drought; salt spray and brackish water. It tolerates some shade when young but grows best in full sun.

native tree - eastern redcedar in a field
Eastern redcedar tree. Photo: M. Talabac

The berry-like cones on female Eastern redcedar trees are blue-gray and waxy or frosted in appearance. There are many cultivated varieties of this tree – some more compact, columnar, or pyramidal in form. Examples include:

  • ‘Grey Owl’ - 3’-6’ tall with a horizontal spreading habit; silvery-gray foliage
  • ‘Brodie’ - 20'-’25’ tall x 4’-6’ wide, columnar form, good for a screen or hedge
  • ‘Emerald Sentinel’ - 15'-20' tall by 7'-8' wide
  • ‘Blue Arrow’ - 12'-15' tall by 2' wide
  • ‘Hillspire’ - 6'-8' tall by 8' wide

Use for: windbreaks, screening, hedges, shore plantings, and wildlife gardens.

juniper cultivar - grey owl
Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl': Photo: M. Talabac

Wildlife: Eastern redcedars are highly valuable for native wildlife. The nutritious berry-like cones of the female trees are eaten by many songbirds including Robins, Catbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, Blue Jays, and Mockingbirds. Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were named after the redcedar because of their preference for the cones. The dense branches of this tree also provide valuable shelter and nesting places for birds. Eastern redcedar is a host plant for the native Imperial Moth

This is an alternate host plant for cedar apple rust and cedar quince rust, and it is susceptible to bagworm moths. It is deer-resistant.

References

Anderson, Michelle D. 2003. Juniperus virginiana. In: Fire Effects Information System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). https://www.fs.usda.gov/database/feis/plants/tree/junvir/all.html

Dirr, Michael. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses, Fifth Edition.

Eastern Red Cedar, Faunal Associations, Illinois Wildflowers
https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/trees/plants/red_cedar.htm

Eastern Red Cedar, Maryland Biodiversity Project
https://www.marylandbiodiversity.com/view/319

Slattery, Britt E., et. al. 2005. Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Chesapeake Bay Field Office, Annapolis, MD. 82 pp.

Compiled by: Christa Carignan, Horticulturist & Coordinator, Home & Garden Information Center. 2022

Still have a question? Contact us at Ask Extension.