This is a very tough native evergreen with many uses in the landscape. The common name is misleading. Eastern red-cedar is a juniper, not a cedar. The trees are not even in the same family; junipers are in the cypress or Cupressaceae family while cedars are in the pine or Pinaceae family.
Juniperus viriginiana grows best in sunny locations with a light, sandy soil. It does particularly well in coastal New Jersey, Delaware and points south. It also is pollution tolerant and thrives in soil with low nutrient levels. The tree retains its pyramidal shape as it reaches up to 40 feet high and wide, making it an attractive windbreak or privacy screen in the home landscape. The thin, reddish bark sheds on the trunk, adding to its attractiveness. The fruits on female trees resemble dark blue or black fleshy berries rather than the cones of other conifers. They are a good food source for songbirds.
The foliage ranges from light to dark green, turning bronzy brown during the winter months. Juvenile foliage is thin and sharp to the touch, helping to discourage browsing from deer. As the plant matures the needle-like form evolves into more scale-like foliage.
Red-cedar trees can suffer from bagworm. They also are a host plant for the cedar apple rust fungus which overwinters on the evergreen in the form of a bright orange gall and then infects apple trees in the spring.
Many cultivars are sold in nurseries, however, here at Haverford College we have a three young specimens of the straight species Juniperus virginiana planted in front of Woodside Cottage.