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Juniperus virginiana
Eastern Juniper foliage and mature cones
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Juniperus
Species: J. virginiana
Binomial name
Juniperus virginiana

Juniperus virginiana (Eastern Redcedar[2], Red Cedar, Eastern Juniper, Red Juniper, Pencil Cedar) is a species of juniper native to eastern North America, from southeastern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, east of the Great Plains.[3] Further west, it is replaced by the related Juniperus scopulorum (Rocky Mountain Juniper), and to the southwest, by Juniperus ashei (Ashe Juniper).[4][5][6]

The Lakota Native American name is Chansha, "redwood" or Hante'. In its native range, it is commonly called "cedar" or "red cedar," names rejected by the American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature [7] as it is a juniper, not a true cedar.

Eastern Juniper trees



Juniperus virginiana is a dense slow-growing tree that may never become more than a bush on poor soil but is ordinarily from 5–20 m/16–66 ft (rarely to 27 m/89 ft) tall, with a short trunk 30–100 cm/12–39 in (rarely 170 cm/67 in) diameter. The oldest tree reported, from Missouri, was 795 years old. The bark is reddish-brown, fibrous, and peels off in narrow strips. The leaves are of two types; sharp, spreading needle-like juvenile leaves 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) long, and tightly adpressed scale-like adult leaves 2–4 mm (0.079–0.16 in) long; they are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or occasionally whorls of three. The juvenile leaves are found on young plants up to 1–3 years old, and as scattered shoots on adult trees, usually in shade. The seed cones are 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) long, berry-like with fleshy scales, dark purple-blue with a white wax cover giving an overall sky-blue color (though the wax often rubs off); they contain one or two (rarely up to four) seeds, and are mature in 6–8 months from pollination. They are an important winter food for many birds, which disperse the wingless seeds. The pollen cones are 2–3 mm (0.079–0.12 in) long and 1.5 mm (0.059 in) broad, shedding pollen in late winter or early spring. The trees are usually dioecious, with pollen and seed cones on separate trees.[4][5][6]

There are two varieties[2], which intergrade where they meet:[4][5][6]

  • Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana. Eastern Juniper / Redcedar. Eastern North America, from Maine west to southern Ontario and South Dakota, south to northernmost Florida and southwest into the post oak savannah of east-central Texas. Cones larger, 4-7 mm; scale leaves acute at apex; bark red-brown.
  • Juniperus virginiana var. silicicola (Small) E.Murray (syn. Sabina silicicola Small, Juniperus silicicola (Small) L.H.Bailey). Southern or Sand Juniper / Redcedar. Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from North Carolina south to central Florida and west to southeast Texas. Cones smaller, 3-4 mm; scale leaves blunt at apex; bark orange-brown. It is treated by some authors at the lower rank of variety, while others treat it as a distinct species.


It is a pioneer invader, which means that it is one of the first trees to repopulate cleared, eroded, or otherwise damaged land. It is unusually long lived among pioneer species, with the potential to live for two centuries. The tree is commonly found in prairies or oak barrens, old pastures, or limestone hills, often along highways and near recent construction sites.[4][5][8] It is an alternate host for cedar-apple rust disease, an economically important disease of apples, and some management strategies recommend the removal of J. virginiana near apple orchards[9]

In many areas the trees are considered an invasive species, even if native. The fire intolerant J. virginiana was previously controlled by periodic wildfires. Low branches near the ground burn and provide a ladder that allows fire to engulf the whole tree. Grasses recover quickly from low severity fires that are characteristic of prairies that kept the trees at bay. With the urbanization of prairies, the fires have been stopped with roads, plowed fields, and other fire breaks, allowing J. virginiana and other trees to invade.[10] Trees are destructive to grasslands if left unchecked, and are actively being eliminated by cutting and prescribed burning.[11] The trees also burn very readily, and dense populations were blamed for the rapid spread of wildfires in drought stricken Oklahoma and Texas in 2005 and 2006.[12]

Junipers also benefit from the increased CO2 levels unlike the grasses they compete with. Many grasses are C4 plants that concentrate CO2 levels in their bundle sheaths to increase the efficiency of RuBisCO, the enzyme responsible for photosynthesis. Junipers are C3 plants that rely on the natural CO2 concentrations of the environment and are less efficient at fixing CO2. However, the trees will benefit from increased CO2 levels, unlike grasses.[13]

Damage done by J. virginiana includes outcompeting forage species in pastureland. The low branches and wide base occupy a significant portion of land area. The thick foliage blocks out most light so few plants can live under the canopy. The needles that fall raise the pH of the soil making it alkaline which holds nutrients such as phosphorus making it harder for plants to absorb them. Juniperus virginiana has been shown to remove nitrogen from the soil after invading prairie.[14] It has also been found to reduce carbon stores in the soil. This reduction is soil nutrients also reduces the amount and diversity of microbial activity in the soil.[15]

Cedar waxwings are fond of the berries of these junipers. It takes about 12 minutes for their seeds to pass through the bird's guts, and seeds that have been consumed by this bird have odds of germination roughly three times higher than those of seeds that the birds did not eat. Many other birds (from bluebirds to turkeys) and many mammals also enjoy these berries.[8]


A log sawn in two and turned on a lathe exposing the pale sapwood and the reddish heartwood
'Corcorcor' Berries

The fine-grained, soft brittle pinkish- to brownish-red heartwood is fragrant, very light and very durable, even in contact with soil. Because of its rot resistance the wood is used for fence posts. Because the aromatic wood is avoided by moths it is in demand as lining for clothes chests and closets, often referred to as cedar closets and cedar chests. If correctly prepared, it makes excellent English longbows, flatbows, and Native American sinew-backed bows. The wood is marketed as "eastern redcedar" or "aromatic cedar". The best portions of the heartwood are one of the few woods good for making pencils, but the supply had diminished sufficiently by the 1940s that it was largely replaced by incense-cedar.[8]

Juniper oil is distilled from the wood, twigs and leaves. The cones are used to flavor gin and as a kidney medicine.

Native American tribes used juniper wood poles to mark out agreed tribal hunting territories. French traders named Baton Rouge, Louisiana (meaning "red stick") from the reddish color of these poles.

During the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, the Prairie States Forest Project encouraged farmers to plant shelterbelts (wind breaks) made of Eastern Juniper throughout the Great Plains. They grow well under adverse conditions. Both drought tolerant and cold tolerant, they grow well in rocky, sandy, and clay substrate. Competition between trees is minimal, so it can be planted in tightly spaced rows and the trees still grow to full height creating a solid windbreak in a short period of time.[16]

A number of cultivars have been selected for garden planting, including 'Canaertii' (narrow conical; female) 'Corcorcor' (with a dense, erect crown; female), 'Goldspire' (narrow conical with yellow foliage), and 'Kobold' (dwarf). Some cultivars previously listed under this species, notably 'Skyrocket', are actually cultivars of J. scopulorum.[17]

In the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, Eastern Juniper is commonly used as a Christmas tree.


The pollen is a known allergen, although not as potent as that of the related Juniperus ashei (Ashe Juniper) which sheds pollen a month earlier. People allergic to one are usually allergic to both. J. virginiana sheds pollen as early as late winter and through early spring. Consequently, what begins as an allergy to Ashe Juniper in the winter, may extend into spring since the pollination of the Eastern Juniper follows after that of the Ashe Juniper.

Contact with the leaves or wood can produce a mild skin rash in some individuals.


  1. ^ Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Juniperus virginiana. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
  2. ^ a b Flora of North America: Juniperus virginiana
  3. ^ USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Juniperus virginiana L. eastern redcedar
  4. ^ a b c d Farjon, A. (2005). Monograph of Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-068-4
  5. ^ a b c d Gymnosperm Database: Juniperus virginiana
  6. ^ a b c Adams, R. P. (2004). Junipers of the World. Trafford. ISBN 1-4120-4250-X
  7. ^ Kelsey, H. P., & Dayton, W. A. (1942). Standardized Plant Names, ed.2. American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature. Horace McFarland Company, Harrisburg, Pa.
  8. ^ a b c Barlow, Virginia (Winter 2004). "Species in the Spotlight: Eastern Redcedar, Juniperus virginiana". Northern Woodlands (Center for Northern Woodlands Education) 11 (43): 37. Retrieved 29 July 2009. 
  9. ^ West Virginia University: Cedar-Apple Rust, Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae
  10. ^ Forest Plan: [1]
  11. ^ Noble Foundation: News Release
  12. ^ CNN: Wildfires Rip Through Oklahoma
  13. ^ McKinley, Duncan C., and John M. Blair.. "Woody Plant Encroachment by Juniperus virginiana in a Mesic Native Grassland Promotes Rapid Carbon and Nitrogen Accrual." Ecosystems 11.3 (Apr. 2008): 454-468.
  14. ^ Norris, Mark D., John M. Blair, and Loretta C. Johnson. "Altered Ecosystem Nitrogen Dynamics as a Consequence of Land Cover Change in Tallgrass Prairie." American Midland Naturalist 158.2 (Oct. 2007): 432-445.
  15. ^ McKinley, Duncan C., and John M. Blair.. "Woody Plant Encroachment by Juniperus virginiana in a Mesic Native Grassland Promotes Rapid Carbon and Nitrogen Accrual." Ecosystems 11.3 (Apr. 2008): 454-468.
  16. ^ USDA Fact Sheet: [2]
  17. ^ Welch, H., & Haddow, G. (1993). The World Checklist of Conifers. Landsman's. ISBN 0-900513-09-8.

External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Juniperus virginiana


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Classis: Pinopsida
Ordo: Pinales
Familia: Cupressaceae
Subfamiliae: Cupressoideae
Genus: Juniperus
Sectio: Juniperus sect. Sabina
Species: Juniperus virginiana
Varieties: J. virginiana var. silicicola - J. virginiana var. virginiana


Juniperus virginiana L.


Data compiled from various sources by Mark W. Skinner. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

  • Species Plantarum 2:1039. 1753
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names

Italiano: Ginepro della Virginia
Türkçe: Kurşun kalem ardıcı
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Juniperus virginiana on Wikimedia Commons.


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