The Southern Redcedar, also known as the “Sand-Cedar” (Juniperous siliciola, meaning “growing in sand,” or Juniperus virginiana) is an aromatic evergreen that rises up to 50 feet and can have widths of up to two feet. It is favored as a decorative tree, a windbreaker when planted in rows, and as a Christmas tree.
The tree’s dark-green, scaly foliage is droopy, forming four-angled twigs that grow tiny dark blue berry-like cones of about 5 millimeters in diameter (a quarter inch or so). The bark is brown to dark brown, shredding off in fibers like a woody, well-cooked roast.
Because it is resistant to salt spray, the tree grows in most of central and northern Florida, including the Panhandle, and along the coasts of every state south of the Mason-Dixon Line: Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, as well as Louisiana and east Texas. It grows in sand dunes and brackish marshes and other sandy soils.
The tree is native to American soils. Its most active growth period is in spring and summer, though its berry-like fruit blooms in spring and continues through fall. It grows relatively fast.
“Cedar Key, Florida, once had extensive redcedar forests before the lumber was extensively harvested and the wood used for chests and pencils,” according to the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. “Although not currently used often as a street tree, its wood is strong, the foliage is clean, and the fruit is small making it a suitable candidate. There are some nice examples of street tree use in southern cities. With proper pruning to remove lower branches, it should adapt well to street-scapes. Planted in full sun or partial shade, Southern Redcedar will easily grow on a variety of soils, including clay. Growth may be poor in landscapes which are over-irrigated. Plants are difficult to transplant due to a coarse root system, except when quite small. Water until well-established and then forget about the tree. It performs admirably with no care, even on alkaline soil and along the coast. Usually insects and diseases are not a problem if grown in the full sun. There may be local restrictions on planting this tree near apple orchards because it is the alternate host for cedar-apple rust.”