|Male red cedar cones produce pollen- REK|
|Male cones cover the branches- REK|
|J. virginiana seed cones and female flower (red arrow)- Jim Mason|
Since cedars are aggressive early colonizers whose natural control, fire, has been largely eliminated, they tend to become invasive in glades, untended fields and roadsides. This supports the definition of a weed as "a plant growing in the wrong place," as defined by the bipedal mammals that have gained control of North America. On the other hand, they are valuable as windbreaks, particularly in the Great Plains where there is little else to slow the wind and drifting snow. As evergreens, they remain a wind barrier in winter when other species have lost their leaves.
This can be a mixed blessing, especially when they take over dormant fields. Cedars are frequently seen along fence rows where their seeds are planted by robins who love their "berries" and pass them along while wire-sitting, waiting for their next worm. These cones are consumed also by cedar waxwings, finches and a variety of other birds, as well as gleaned from the forest floor by rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, and opossums.s Cedars as evergreens also provide shelter for many bird species during the winter as well as nesting sites in the summer. FCPS
One final plus of cedars is their positive effect on barren soil such as our hills denuded of deciduous trees from aggressive harvesting in the 19th century and subsequent fire suppression. Cedars tolerate highly acid soil and rapidly alkalize it because of the high calcium content of its shed foliage. This can increase earthworm activity, and they in turn incorporate organic matter as well as aerate the soil.
|Mature female cones|
Should you want to propagate cedars (unlikely here in the Ozarks), the USDA has information for you.
Detailed information is available at this US Forest Service site.
Thanks to Jim Mason of the Great Plains Nature Center of Wichita, Kansas for the photograph.