Over the river and through the woods… whether out for a hike, or on the hunt for your next Christmas tree, Discover Nature this week, and watch for Missouri’s Eastern red-cedars.
Eastern red-cedar trees are not true cedars – they actually belong to the juniper genus of the cypress family. True cedars belong to the cedrus genus in the pine family.
Nonetheless, these aromatic evergreens offer food and cover for birds and wildlife, often providing windbreaks and wildlife corridors in cemeteries, farmyards, and neighborhoods.
Historically, red-cedars were mostly confined to bluffs and cliffs in Missouri, where fire could not reach them. Some of the gnarled red-cedars on Ozark bluffs are more than 1,000 years old.
Since European settlement, fire suppression and other changes in land use have made these trees much more prolific – and sometimes problematic.
Red-cedars play an important role in returning disturbed landscapes to forest. But they can quickly create land-management challenges when they invade ecological communities such as glades, savannas, prairies, and open woodlands.
For centuries, humans have cultivated red-cedars for wood products – from pencils to fenceposts – and their resin is used for ointments, soaps, and flavoring gin.
Red-cedar was a traditional favorite Christmas tree in old-time Ozark homes, and for many, still is today.
Learn more about Missouri’s Eastern red-cedar trees, and find places near you to see them growing in the wild with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.
Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.