Canopy Tour: Evergreen provides habitat

Published 4:40 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2023

MT ZION — Cedar trees are evergreen and offer a comforting fragrance. Mississippi’s Eastern Red Cedars provide food and home to several different species of wildlife and are native to the landscape. 

One could call it the “Christmas Tree of the South,” according to the Mississippi State Extension Service. Cedars provide the gift of food to 20 different bird species in addition to small mammals with the berries it produces. 

Mississippi Forestry Commission writes the Eastern Red Cedar is also known as a juniper or Virginia red cedar. The bark of an eastern red cedar is often thin, reddish brown with fibrous, long narrow strips. 

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Eastern Red Cedars can reach a mature size of 50 feet tall with a growth rate of 25 feet over 20 years. It is a very slow grower but has a moderate lifespan of 50 years and greater. 

While Eastern Red Cedars have intermediate shade tolerances, the tree is not tolerant to fire nor flooding. It is however tolerant to drought and is ranked as having a high tolerance for drought according to the MFC. 

Eastern Red Cedars can be planted using seed, bare root, containers or cuttings. Cold stratification is required if planting from a seed. These trees can also resprout. 

It is often found in a wide variety of soils but grows best on light loams. It can also be found in high abundance in dry, shallow and rocky soils where nothing else will grow. The preferred soil PH for Eastern Red Cedars is 4.7 to 8.0. 

Chipping sparrows, robins, song sparrows and mocking birds use the Eastern Red Cedar for nesting cover. Juncos, myrtle warblers, sparrows and other birds use it as roosting cover. Eastern Red Cedars provide valuable dense winter protective cover. 

The wood of Eastern Red Cedars is often closely grained, aromatic and durable. It is used for furniture, interior paneling, novelties and fence posts. Fruits and young branches contain aromatic oils which can be used in medicine. 

Fun fact, the Eastern Red Cedar boughs were used by Native American tribes for bedding