Walk down any dirt road in Mississippi and you’ll see an eastern red cedar lining the edge of the forest or field. Many a rural fence row has been built using eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) for the posts.
These common native trees are hardy plants. They can take the heat, drought, cold, wind, and even a little salt spray; they grow in 37 states in the U.S.
In the late summer and early fall, these cedars will produce tiny pale silver-blue berry-like cones. There are so many tiny fruits that the branches will bend down under their weight.
Wildlife Value of the Eastern Red Cedar
Have you ever looked up into the boughs of an eastern red cedar in the early fall? It is alive with birds. Robins, mockingbirds, cedar wax wings, juncos, and other smaller birds will be feasting on the abundant fruits of this tree. Bobwhite quail and wild turkeys also feed on the cones. See a list of birds that eat the fruits of this tree.
Other wildlife feed on the fruit and leaves of the eastern red cedar as well, including the white-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, skunks, foxes, and rabbits.
These cedars provide thick cover for wildlife too, especially when several are growing together. Birds, large mammals, and small mammals will all seek shelter underneath or in an eastern red cedar. If you search at the base of one of these trees, you might find a rabbit or even a fawn taking cover.
#3 Nesting Sites
Many bird species use the branches of the eastern red cedar for nesting sites. Wild turkey, northern cardinals, warblers, Cooper’s hawks, and mourning doves all have been noted using these trees for nests.
#4 Host Plant
The eastern red cedar is a host plant for several butterfly and moth species. The Juniper hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus) is one butterfly species that lays its eggs on this tree.
So the next time you see an eastern red cedar, keep an eye out for movement and see if you can find an insect, bird, or mammal who might be using it for food, cover, or nesting. You never know what might be hiding in plain sight.