Tree Species Highlight

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Pruning up lower limbs can transform eastern red cedar into a shade tree for the landscape, just one of its many uses.

Juniperus virginiana (Eastern Red Cedar)



Though perhaps Oklahoma’s most widely known tree species, the merits of the eastern red cedar commonly go unrealized. In much of Oklahoma, the species is burdened with being a symptom of certain land management choices and styles. From talking to people, it’s apparent that this bad reputation is directly conveyed to the use of eastern red cedars in developed landscapes. I think this negative association is unfortunate considering the merits of the species, and our limited options for evergreen trees that do well in Oklahoma. I find eastern red cedar to be a good choice for screening, color in the winter landscape, when a pyramidal form is needed, or when an Oklahoma native is desired.

As with any other tree, considering species and even cultivar characteristics is essential to proper placement. Obviously eastern red cedar is a prolific reproducer. Extra consideration should always be exercised when utilizing any type of plant that has a tendency to spread. Undesirable reproduction can be managed by using the tree only in areas that are regularly maintained by mowing or weeding. Birds are a significant spreader of the tree, but selecting a male plant may help reduce seeding into the landscape since females of the species produce berries which birds like to eat, and consequently spread. These berries will be apparent during the fall and winter.

When planting any tree be sure to consider structures and utilities in the area. With age, these trees can be expected to reach upwards of 50’ tall so avoid planting beneath power lines. If you intend to allow the tree to be branched to the ground, ensure at least a 20’ wide space for the lower branches. The species naturally has a wide variation in forms. Cultivars such as ‘Canaert’, and the now Oklahoma Proven ‘Taylor’ are a couple of specific landscape interest. You can see ‘Taylor’ juniper growing in the center median of Broadway between Danforth and Covell, near Endeavor, the stainless steel art piece.

The form and hardiness of eastern red cedar make the plant a useful landscape option. Dealing with the negative consequences of the species proliferation is a significant issue facing parts of our great state. Addressing the issue should not focus solely on the tree species, but on the broader perspective of objective land management and a more productive Oklahoma. When thoughtfully placed, and with proper maintenance of the surrounding landscape eastern red cedar can be used safely and successfully.

-Ryan Ochsner, Urban Forestry Coordinator
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Eastern red cedar leaves and berries