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Eastern Red Cedar

A plant that brings color to the winter fields and interdunal swales is the eastern red cedar. It is not a true cedar; it is a juniper.

This evergreen tree takes on many forms depending on where it grows. Along the beach front, just behind the primary dune, eastern red cedars grow more prostate. Sea breezes that blow over the top of the dunes prevent the tree from getting too tall. Cedars will take on the form of a large candle inland where they thrive in fields far from the seashore.

Eastern red cedar is a pioneer plant. It is one of the first shrubs to colonize fields created by abandoned farmlands, fires and human disturbance of forests. It paves the way for other trees and shrubs to grow.

Cedar waxwings and other berry loving birds eat the fruit of the cedar (that is how the waxwing got its name). The berries are blue-green to black and full of nutrition for wildlife, but some parts of this tree can be poisonous to people.

Look for this plant in abandoned fields and coastal areas in the eastern U.S. If it is winter time, look closely for birds. Not only do birds eat the berries, but they find shelter in the evergreens too.

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