Red Cedar

Juniperus virginiana L.



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Family:  Cupressaceae

Native or Introduced to Illinois:  native

Natural Habit in Illinois:   bluffs; rocky outcrops; old fields; dry woods; moist woods

Leaf:  This tree has two types of leaves - one dark green, very small and scalelike, clasping the stem in four ranks so that the stem appears square. The other kind, often appearing on young growth or vigorous shoots, is awl-shaped, quite sharp pointed, spreading and whitened beneath.

Cones:  Male and female cones are on separate trees.  The staminate (male) cones are yellowish-brown, papery, solitary at the tips of branchlets, ovoid to ellipsoid, and 0.2-0.4 cm (1/16-1/8) long.  The ovulate (female) cones are solitary at the tips of branchlets, dark blue or bluish-purple, waxy and berrylike, 0.4-0.7 cm (3/16-1/4) long.  The female cones ripen from September through October.  There are 1-3 seeds per cone. 

Fruit:   Red cedar seeds are yellow-brown and round, 2-4 mm in diameter, ridged near the base, and sometimes shallowly pitted.

Twig:   The twigs are four-sided.

Bark:  The bark is very distinct, being thin, reddish brown in color.  It peels off in long, shreddy strips.

Size/Form/Shape:   The evergreen tree is shaped like a pyramid or column, with reddish-brown to grayish colored bark that is fibrous and shedding.  It is a is a medium-sized dioecious or rarely monoecious tree from 10-20 m (33-66') tall.

County Distribution Map for Illinois:  


Sources for the Sullivan Middle School Tree Identification Guide were obtained though the use of the following sites:

The information below is from the National Arbor Day Foundation.  This information can be viewed in the original (source) form by visiting The National Arbor Day Foundation at

Sun Exposure:  This red cedar does well in full sun.
Soil Type:  The red cedar grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, clay, sandy, well-drained, wide range of soils. This tree is drought tolerant.
Moisture:  Can withstand occasional flooding, yet has good drought tolerance.
Growth Rate:  This tree grows at a medium growth rate.

Hardiness Zones: 2 - 9
This red cedar can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the zone map.