One of our most prominent maritime forest trees, the Eastern Red Cedar can be found all over the island.
In his book,Tideland Treasure: Expanded Edition, Todd Ballantine calls this plant the “salt marsh evergreen.” It can tolerate fairly salty environments, and can be a great Christmas tree. Sometimes also known as southern red cedar, there is some discussion about whether there are two species or one that has adapted to cooler climates. It can grow to be 40 – 60 feet or higher (I have one at my house that stretches to the very top of the roof) and is a valuable wildlife tree. I’ve seen Black and white warblers, myrtle warblers, ruby crowned kinglets, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, flickers, chickadees, cedar waxwings,and more– right outside the window.
The wood can be extremely durable and is resistant to fungi or insects: it was used for pencils, shingles, furniture, and more. When you cut it, there is a distinct fragrance. It’s a slow growing tree, and by the time the trunk is 2 feet around, the tree might be 200 years old. They thrive in calcium rich soils near oyster middens and tabby ruins.
The Huylers, who lived on the island in the 1920’s, brought home an Eastern Red Cedar as a Christmas Tree.
It is a dioecious tree, meaning that there are male and female plants, and they flower in late January and March, dispersing pollen. The seeds, when they form, are eaten by a wide variety of wildlife.