Trees dioecious, to 30 m, single-stemmed; crown narrowly erect to conical, round, or flattened. Bark brown, exfoliating in thin strips, that of small branchlets (5--10 mm diam.) smooth, that of larger branchlets usually not exfoliating in plates. Branches pendulous to ascending; branchlets generally erect, sometimes lax to flaccid, 3--4-sided in cross section, ca. 2/3 or less as wide as length of scalelike leaves. Leaves green but sometimes turning reddish brown in winter, abaxial gland elliptic or elongate, conspicuous, exudate absent, margins entire (at 20´ and 40´); whip leaves 3--6 mm, not glaucous adaxially; scalelike leaves 1--3 mm, overlapping by more than 1/4 their length, keeled, apex obtuse to acute, spreading. Seed cones maturing in 1 year, of 1 size, generally with straight peduncles, globose to ovoid, 3--6(--7) mm, blue-black to brownish blue when mature, glaucous, soft and resinous, with 1--2(--3) seeds. Seeds 1.5--4 mm.
Tree 10 - 20 m tall, trunk 20 cm - 1 m in diameter Leaves: scale-like or needle-like, green to bluish or yellowish green, persisting for five to six years. Scale-like leaves are common on older trees and are overlapping, 2 - 4 mm long, egg-shaped with pointed to rounded tip and may have glands on the back. Needle-like leaves are common on young trees and quickly growing shoots of older trees and are borne in lose whorls of two to three, often with white lines above, 5 - 7 mm long with a spiny tip. Foliage sometimes turning bronze to yellowish brown in winter. Bark: light reddish brown, peeling in narrow shredded strips. Twigs: bluish green to reddish brown, smooth. Buds: very small, hidden by the leaves. Form: irregular, pyramidal to rounded or flat-topped with a dense crown. Cones: unisexual, with separate pollen and seed cones produced on different trees (dioecious), rarely on the same tree (monoecious), near tips of branches. Pollen cones: 2.5 - 3 mm long, oblong to egg-shaped, with four to six scales, each scale containing four to five spherical yellow pollen sacs. Seed cones: made of thick bluish scales fusing to become nearly spherical and berry-like, borne on short straight stalks near ends of branches, green changing to dark blue with a whitish waxy coating (glaucous), 5 - 7 mm in diameter, maturing in one season, resinous, each containing one or two egg-shaped seeds. Pollination occurs from April to May.
Similar species: Thuja occidentalis is easily distinguished from the junipers found in the Chicago Region. It has flattened branches, all scale-like leaves, and woody cones. The junipers of the region all have berry-like cones and branches that are not flattened. Juniperus communis has all needle-like leaves. Juniperus horizontalis is trailing with erect branches, has mostly scale-like leaves, and the cones are on recurved stalks. Juniperus virginiana is represented by one variety in the Chicago Region. See link below for further information.
Habitat and ecology: Dry woods, fields, cliffs, and dry calcareous sites.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Although the common name is eastern red cedar, this species is not a true cedar (Cedrus sp.). The wood of J. virginiana is used to make fence posts, pencils, shingles, and log cabins. A scented oil in the wood is disliked by moths, so the wood is commonly used in closets and clothing chests. Female cones are used to flavor gin. This species is a host for cedar-apple, -hawthorn, and -quince rust diseases. It hybridizes with J. horizontalis.
Etymology: Juniperus is the Latin name for juniper. Virginiana means "from Virginia."
Shrub or tree with a dense crown, to 20 m; juvenile lvs subulate, pungent, 5-7 mm, spreading or ascending; lvs of adult branches scale-like, appressed, ovate or lance-ovate, 2-4 mm, obtuse or subacute, convex on the back; cones terminal on short, straight peduncles, subglobose, blue-glaucous, 5-7 mm thick; seeds 1 or 2, pitted toward the base. In a variety of soils, esp. in dry, calcareous sites; s. Me. and s. Que. to N.D., s. to Ga., nw. Fla., and Tex. Two weakly distinguished vars.: Var. virginiana, occurring from Va. to s. Mo. and southward, has a relatively broad, ovoid crown with widely spreading branches, and the seeds are strongly pitted. Var. crebra Fernald, the more northern phase, has a narrowly spire-shaped crown with distinctly ascending branches, and the seeds are only obscurely pitted.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
In a recent study of the species Fernald & Griscom found that our spirelike trees of the north and interior are not like the ovoid type of tree of the south. The leaves of adult branchlets of the northern form are narrower and attenuate at the apex while those of the southern form are rather broadly deltoid and obtuse or merely subacute. The mature fruit of the north has sweet flesh and the seed shallow pits at the base while those of the south have flesh with a pitchy taste and deep pits at the base. Caution must be used in separating the two forms by the character of the leaves because of transitional forms. All the specimens I have examined belong to the northern variety. The eastern red cedar is found throughout the state although there are no records from the southwestern part. It is rare to infrequent in the northern part except along the St. Joseph River where it is frequent on its banks or close to them, becoming rare in the central part of the state, and frequent to common in the southern part in the unglaciated area and east of it. This tree seems to prefer calcareous soils, and in the unglaciated area some eroded and abandoned fields have grown up thickly with it. It has a wide range of habitats for I have seen it even in the "flats" in Clark County. I am of the opinion that in the primitive forest this species was restricted to high bluffs and banks of streams and eroded slopes where it could compete with other species.
Indiana Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 2
Wetland Indicator Status: FACU
Deam (1932): Red cedar has had many uses, and the large trees have been practically all harvested. It is now used principallly for poles, posts, cross-ties, cigar boxes, and lead pencils. It is the best wood known for lead pencils. The odor is so objectionable to insects that a market has been made for chests of this wood in which to store clothing and furs.