Pierce Park Red Cedar

The Red Cedar, also called Eastern Redcedar, Pencil Cedar and Aromatic Cedar, is actually a species of Juniper. That is why it is also called Virginian Juniper, Eastern Juniper and Red Juniper. It was first observed at Roanoke Island in Virginia in 1564, and soon became prized by colonists for building furniture, logs cabins and rail fences. Its wood became a staple of the pencil industry for over a century, until the Western Cedar replaced it, as there were not enough Red Cedars available to meet production demands. Today pencils are generally made out of Incense Cedar.

Native Americans believed the Red Cedar to be a holy tree and often burned it in purification rites and sweat lodges. They concocted remedies with its berries, roots and bark, some to relieve asthma and coughs, some as a sedative and diuretic.

The juicy blue berries that the Red Cedar produces take three years to mature and are food for many types of wildlife. That includes the Cedar Waxwing, a bird named for the tree because they often eat most of its fruit.