Plant of the Week: Eastern Red Cedar

Photo by Steven SeveringhausA mockingbird enjoys the "berries" – actually cones – of one of the High Line's Emerald Sentinel® Eastern red cedar trees. Photo by Steven Severinghaus

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

Juniperus virginiana, or Eastern red cedar, is a northeastern native conifer with a range spanning from southeastern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This juniper is part of the family Cupressaceae , or cypress family. A slow-growing tree, the Eastern red cedar is capable of reaching heights of 60 feet and can live for more than 800 years in ideal conditions..

The Eastern red cedar's common name was coined by Native Americans. They referred to this tree as chansa, literally meaning "red wood," because of the red coloration of its peeling bark. Over time, "red wood" became “Eastern red cedar," although the tree is not a part of the botanical genus Cedrus, or cedar. (The common names of plants can be misleading, as this example demonstrates.)

In addition to the natural winter interest provided by any evergreen species, the bark of mature specimens of Eastern red cedar exfoliates in attractive thin strips. Its wood contains aromatic oils that help to repel moths, making it desirable in the fabrication of clothing chests, sachets, and the lining of closets. Eastern red cedar wood was the most common wood used in the manufacturing of pencils until the 1940s, when supply diminished and incense-cedar was used instead.

The cultivar ‘Corcorcor’ was chosen for the High Line because of its cobalt-blue “berries,” which are actually cones. These berries persist throughout winter providing a valuable food source for local birds.

WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
You can find the Emerald Sentinel® Eastern red cedar on the High Line between West 21st Street and West 24th Street, as well as at 30th Street.

Download our January Bloom Guide.

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