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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Missouri's Evergreens

Eastern red cedar_18.jpg
MDC Staff
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Eastern Red Cedar tree draped in snow.

Our most common native evergreen is the eastern red cedar, a cone-shaped juniper with a spicy yuletide aroma. It's prickly, scale-like leaves are quite different from those of spruce, fir, or pine. But it's symmetrical shape and fresh scent make cedar a yuletide choice.

The Red Cedar’s red, aromatic wood is used for chests, closets, interior finish, posts, pencils, and other objects. An oil from the resin is used for ointments, soaps, and to flavor gin.

Most red cedars don't end up as Christmas trees, and those that stay outside add green to winter's landscape. Cedar branches can be loaded with blue berries from fall through winter. The berries attract living ornaments in the form of robins, bluebirds, and cedar waxwings. Sometimes scores of these birds feast on a cedar, gorging themselves on the high energy fruit.

Cedars are especially beautiful when draped with new-fallen snow. Their dense branches shelter birds at night and during storms. They also protect deer and rabbits from energy sapping winds. Come spring, mockingbirds, robins, and mourning doves will seek these same protective branches for their nests.

As a colonizer, cedar plays an early role in transforming a damaged, stripped landscape back into a forest. This tree is host to cedar-apple rust, which in certain stages makes brown spots on the leaves of apple, hawthorn, and crabapple trees.

The tree has been cultivated since 1664, and old specimens are prominent in many old cemeteries, farmyards, and neighborhoods.

While you’re out and about for the holidays, see how many birds you can find in cedar trees!

Learn more at MissouriConservation.org.

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