Rural System's

The Cedar Group
developing species-specific strategies in rural resource management

From New York Cornell publication, 1955by Cope and Winch, Know Your Trees

The Cedar Group (or Virginia Cedar )now operates to preserve, enhance, develop, and manage a Virginia Cedar resource. It exploits a new single-species strategy in natural resource management, one intimately linked to all of the other Groups within Rural System. That system works for employment, community stability, and improved natural resource management.

It was taken to Europe in the 1600's. It is usually found in pastures but foresters find it among pines, "holding on" and eventually being overtopped by them. It needs full sunlight for full expression of its potentials. Its seeds, typically spread by birds, germinate on dry, bare, disturbed soils. Seedlings develop a tap root and gain water from deep in the soil.

The wood is soft, light, brittle, easily worked, and fragrant. It is dull red with contrasting white sapwood suggesting a potential for cameo-like relief sculpture. The wood is extremely resistant to rot in contact with the soil and The Fence Group may exploit this recognized property. We already know of the great value of the tree when its wood is used in cedar chests, cabinets, and finishing wood. We also know of secondary uses of chips in animal bedding. The wood has been used in the past for pencil wood.

The tree was used by pre-settlement people and was believed to have medicinal values. Only a few such values (such as the berries being a urinary antiseptic and useful in treating cystitis) have been confirmed. Used after being boiled and in hot packs on wounds, it likely has an antiseptic property. The Group is open to cooperative studies of such properties. We are working on new bio-extracts from the tree that are likely to be useful as a natural fungicide and mammal repellent.

The Group staff takes uncommon pride in creating and developing old and new uses of the tree, communities of them, the litter and under-tree soils, fruits, seeds, wood, and related art, photography, and leaves as well as fibrous bark in floral art applications.


The Group locates optimum old field cedar groves and establishes others on select GIS-located sites (estimated to be of 50 acres, widely distributed, usually in 1 to 5 acre units). These groves are trees planted on the contour in a hexagonal pattern identical to that used within the Walnut Vales. The pattern allows for intermediate alternative-tree-removal that results in an open- grown, evenly-spaced "orchard" with 16 foot spacing with full canopy sunlight exposure and no competition with each other for water. Lower branches within reach are pruned in the crop trees to allow and encourage other uses of the land under the groves including berry bush cultivars. The prunings are used in sachets, scented note cards, oil extractions, and dried for uses in floral arrangements.

Several groves may be used as memorial sites by the Memorials Group of Rural System. Many are used for hiking, picnicking, and for special school projects. Staff has prepared educational units emphasizing biological components of various elementary school class "Standards of Learning." The Owls Group uses some groves. The beauty of the dark green contrast of the Cedar Grove against winter snow becomes a dominant feature of some landscapes.


The trees are now generally treated as weed species in old fields but specialized uses have been created such as those for cedar chests. Large diameter woods are needed and we propose to develop optimally-spaced trees within cultivated stands to maximize growth for the future markets as well as to provide land protection and unusually pleasant recreational spots.

The woods will be developed for certified market demand.

They are high in oils and have high energy content.

They may have a key role in corner- or turning-posts of specialized fences.

Products include pet litter, specialized oils and scents, holiday trees for select groups and purposes, and sculptors' base products. The " chip off the old block" gift item with information and a mailer may become a best seller at gift shops. Special toys may be created.

The insecticidal or repellency needs to be studied for possible "natural or organic" markets.

We'll seek funding for a search for genetically superior trees and seek to propagate them.

The Group extends rows of cedars in pastures as wind breaks and with snow fences for livestock energy conservation. It analyzes the tree in sound barriers. It develops specialty products of lathe-turned bowls from root bases, wooden vases, and other objects, many for dry flower arrangements. It sells sachets and a board for scenting clothing in dresser drawers. The work is like that elsewhere within Rural System - developing employment opportunities, new resources, adding value to well-known products, and assembling and advancing knowledge of a resource that can be advantageously protected, used, and managed well with secondary rural benefits for the long term.

Notes on the Tree and Its Ecology

There are several varieties of that species.

Past Ph.D. work (Holthuijzen, 1983) has provided a wealth of information on the trees and their ecology and propagation.

Wise use of species embodied in the "precautionary principle" includes compiling a knowledge base for the species including germination, longevity, favorable and limiting conditions, mortality factors, frequency by age classes, associated flora and fauna, and population structure and dynamics. Modern studies will include some feedforward effort. A history is needed for a baseline.

We need to understand and control the negative effects in pastures as well as benefits of intensively managed groves. We can follow the loss of individuals in regions over the years in alpha units with suitable characteristics for the cedar.

J. communis lives to 200 years. Some Asian species of junipers live to over 1000 years (Mulhamedshin 1977).

They bear fruit at 12 years, live to 60 locally, and produce a notably large crop every 3 years. Locally they are suppressed and replaced by oaks or hickories at about age 60.

The fruit is blue and about inch in diameter and more like a berry than the cone (which it is technically speaking). It remains on the tree during the winter and we have records of animal species that seek them. Each berry has 1-2 wingless seeds that have been used in food seasoning (a resinous flavor).The berries of another species of juniper give gin liquor its distinctive flavor. We'll study for flavor.

Seeds are viable under artificial storage for 9, 21, and 45 years ( 3 observations only).

Holthuijzen learned of seed rain, seed banks, and dispersal ecology.

Seed production declines in old specimens.

Pines are the trees that typically grow in deserted crop fields. Cedars however typically grow in deserted pastures. They need full sunlight and grow year-around until they finally can out-compete grasses and other plants.

We know that the species has a special affinity for growing in soils with substances in them originating from dolomite limestone. With GIS work we locate private land pasture and open land sites near roads with the proper slope and slope direction and develop unique groves of these trees. They are fast growing when managed. There may be loss of grass to the trees but on the selected sites, grass production is poor and expected profits over time less than that for cedar products. Since lands are scored, removing 10 acres of poor pasture and putting it in a cedar-grove class invariably increases the pasture score.

Junipers, by the nature of their germination in pastures, are in roughly even-aged stands or mapped groups of individuals. We'll seek to study longevity and seed production in relation to latitude and elevation (as temperature surrogates) related to global warming and to address likely plant success.

We need to answer questions of resistance to fire, insects, disease, shading, moisture stress, fog drip, rabbit populations (e.g.,after population change related to disease), deer, cattle, air pollution (sulfur), frost, grazing sequences (e.g., rapid withdrawal tending to increase cedar abundance).

Harvest strategies and rotation of rotations may be studied for these monocultures that are rarely reproduced on the same sites.

Fruit is eaten by 68 known bird species and 3 mammal species. Seeds are destroyed in mammal digestive process but birds are a major disperser. Yellow-rumped warblers, cedar waxwings, robins, and starlings are notable foragers.

Small seeds fit the theories of dispersal outlined by Holt (see Holthuijzen). He thought that red cedar is a pioneer species with low quality fruits and dispersers were unreliable, thus " ... rendering dispersal over time and space unpredictable." Seeds are displaced within birds, often a long distance from the source with a slow decline in numbers from the source.

You are invited to ...
Participate in related research and development
Suggest or report alternative uses and applications
Allow a Grove to be developed on your land under contract
Allow an existing grove to be managed on your land Contract for a memorial or honor to someone in a book on the Virginia Cedar.


Holthuijzen, A.M.A. 1983. Dispersal ecology of eastern reg cedar, Juniperus virginiana L., Ph.D. Dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 209p.

Mulhamedshin ,K. 1977. cited in Ward, L.K. 1982. The conservation of junipers: longevity and old age. J. Appl. Ecology 19: 917-928.

An extensive bibliography is available within Holthuijzen, 1983.

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .


Rural System
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
October 22, 2006