Random Plant: Eastern juniper

Eastern juniper (Juniperus virginiana, Cupressaceae) photographed 09/27/2010 near Clayton Michigan.

While this conifer is usually referred to as eastern redcedar, it’s more accurate to call it eastern juniper (Juniperus virginiana, Cupressaceae).  True cedars are in a different genus (Cedrus) within an entirely different family (Pinaceae).  Junipers are a pioneer species, so it’s common to see them growing in abandoned farm fields like the one above.

Eastern juniper (Juniperus virginiana, Cupressaceae) photographed 09/27/2010 near Clayton Michigan.

One interesting thing about junipers is that they produce seeds in “berries” like those above.  These “berries” aren’t berries at all, they’re actually cones covered in fleshy scales.  Some other conifers like yews (family Taxaceae) also produce these structures.

Eastern juniper (Juniperus virginiana, Cupressaceae) photographed 09/27/2010 near Clayton Michigan.

Junipers are usually dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female plants.  The male plants produce pollen cones, and wind-dispersed pollen is released in the spring.  Pollen fertilizes the female plant’s seed cones, which then develop into the “berries” seen above.

These seed cones provide food for birds, especially in the winter.  In return, the birds unwittingly disperse the seeds for the plant.  They pass the intact seeds through their digestive tracts, ultimately expelling them in new locations.  Importantly, seeds that have been eaten and defecated by birds have higher germination rates than those that have not.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Random Plant and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Random Plant: Eastern juniper

  1. Pingback: Random Plant: Northern whitecedar (arborvitae) | The Life of Your Time

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