Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), known as eastern red cedar, Virginian juniper, eastern juniper, red juniper, pencil cedar, and aromatic cedar, is a species of juniper native to eastern North America from southeastern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and east of the Great Plains. Further west it is replaced by the related Juniperus scopulorum (Rocky Mountain juniper) and to the southwest by Juniperus ashei (Ashe juniper).

The eastern red cedar is an ancient tree, dating to aboriginal America, where fossil evidence indicates it covered large portions of the continent. Early explorers took note of the tree. Arthur Barlowe and Phillip Amadus were quoted as saying the trees were “the tallest and reddest cedars in the world” when they arrived at Roanoke Island in 1564. Colonial craftsmen lost no time in using the wood from the eastern red cedar for furniture and fences, as it had superior weathering capability and was easy to work with. The wood was a staple of the pencil industry for over a century until supplies became exhausted and the industry switched to more plentiful western cedars.

Eastern Red Cedar Facts

  • Scientific name: Juniperus virginiana
  • Range: across the East to Nebraska and Texas
  • Height: up to 100 feet tall
  • Fruit: small, blue berries, a favorite food of many bird species and mammals
  • Evergreen: its needles remain green year round; sometimes used as Christmas trees.

You Can Take Care of Trees Like the Eastern Red Cedar

  • Plant in late fall or winter when the tree is dormant, unless the ground is frozen. 
  • Allow plenty of room for the tree to mature and grow.
  • Water it regularly in its first three years.
  • Spread mulch around the base of the tree. 

If Trees Could Sing…

Click here to see Mike Farris talk about one of his favorite trees. Video courtesy of The Nature Conservancy and Mike Farris.