Browse and Shop

Where they're from

Crafting a bowl





Home > Red Cedar Tree
Juniperus virginiana (Eastern Red-cedar, 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 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 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 as it is a juniper, not a true cedar. However, "Red Cedar" is the most used common name.

Juniperus virginiana is a dense slow-growing coniferous evergreen tree that may never become more than a bush on poor soil, but is ordinarily from 5–20 m or 16–66 ft (rarely to 27 m or 89 ft) tall, with a short trunk 30–100 cm or 12–39 in (rarely 170 cm or 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 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. The aromatic wood is avoided by moths, so 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 red cedar" 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.Juniper oil is distilled from the wood, twigs and leaves. The essential oil contains cedrol which has toxic and possibly carcinogenic properties. 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 they can be planted in tightly spaced rows, and the trees still grow to full height, creating a solid windbreak in a short time.
In the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, eastern juniper is commonly used as a Christmas tree.