Thirsty Thursday

Another day, another rainstorm here in northern Virginia. One that clear up quickly.

This one knocked all the ‘flowers’ from the White Pine trees.

Hopefully this means the worst of their pollen is gone!

Nothing like a rainstorm to clear the air!


E is for Eastern Red Cedar, an Evergreen

This native evergreen is often overlooked.

Eastern Red Cedar

The blue-green needles are pretty and prickly, and you wouldn’t think any animals would eat them, but White-tailed deer, rabbits and mice will. Eastern Red Cedars, Juniperus virginiana grow in open sunny places, usually disturbed soil, so you humans see them most often sprouting as little conical trees in the medians of your highways. In the olden days, they grew along fence rows. Those big trees with their red-brown shredy bark are a beautiful sight overhanging country roads. Unfortunately we suburban squirrels don’t have a photo of one–so you will have to make do with this one that had another tree combines with it.

Eastern Red Cedar tree

Eastern Red Cedar with seed cones in fall

The flowers aren’t much to look at, but in the fall the bluish berry-like cones ripen and are eaten by all kinds of animals: Woodpeckers, Cedar Waxwings, Bluebirds, Quail, turkey, doves, finches, crows, and also, red fox, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and of course, squirrels!

Eastern Red Cedar. Really.

It’s our last day of Tree Week and I have to admit I nearly goofed. I got some great pictures of Eastern Red Cedar and was all ready to post them when Hickory looked over my shoulder.

Leyland Cyprus

“That’s not cedar,” he said.

Well, we argued around about it for a minute then he scampered off to get Miz Flora.

She shook her head and muttered something about a guy named Leland. Since it’s not that cold, she took Hickory and I to a different tree. A prickly tree. One I stay out of.

‘This is Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana. See the red in the twigs, in the bark? In the heart of the wood also, but we won’t cut it to see that.”

Eastern Red Cedar

Easter Red Cedar bark

I looked over the kind of scruffy gray-green tree. “But what’s that tree?” I pointed to a gorgeous darker conifer, one I love to climb high up its tall trunk.

Leyland Cyprus

She sniffed. “Leyland Cyprus. Not native.” She stomped off.

Hickory bounced around. “I’m getting good at this!”

He is. When I compare the evergreen ‘leaves’, they don’t look much alike, close up or far away. Here is the Eastern Red Cedar in the foreground.

Eastern Red Cedar in foreground, Leyland Cyprus behind

I’m leaving both sets of photos so you can check your trees.

Eastern Hemlock

Miz Flora has made a special request that I include Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis in our Tree Week.

Eastern Hemlock

She says, don’t let the scientific–or the sometimes common name of Canadian Hemlock–fool you. This evergreen grows naturally here in Virginia. You might find it planted in someone’s backyard, as we did, but our field correspondents report that the conifer tree grows on the cooler northern slopes of our hillsides. Down here on the plains around DC, that means the ravines near the big rivers, like the Potomac River.

Eastern Hemlock bark

It’s a very long-lived tree, so gets quite large. Remember that Big Tree list we talked about last fall? I read people like to hunt for hemlocks in remote mountain areas to try to get on the list.

Eastern Hemlock cones

These big trees start from those little cones at the tips of the branches. Hickory and I don’t even bother with the seeds from these cones. We leave them to birds like the chickadees. If you haven’t guessed why, it’s less to do with the cone size than the branches. Those skinny tips are hard to navigate, even for us squirrel acrobats.