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Natural Solutions: Cedars as Wind Screens and Fly Scratchers


By Leigh Ballard

The Eastern Red Cedar tree, technically it’s a juniper, is the most widespread conifer in the eastern U.S. and “is practically ubiquitous in Tennessee. It has two qualities which make it sought after for specialized use: it smells good and it’s durable,” writes Tony Lance, a naturalist with Nashville, Tennessee Metro Parks. “As anyone who has walked through a cedar grove knows, the cedar tree’s aroma is pleasant to the human nose, but it’s reputed to be repellant to insects.

“The classic cedar shape is like a candle flame – fat and rounded with a pointed top – and they add visual interest to Tennessee’s forests, fields, and roadsides,” Lance continued. “As many landowners will attest, cedar trees are remarkably hardy and can grow in a variety of conditions. They tolerate temperature extremes and drought well; they have been a constituent of shelterbelt plantings that control erosion. A pioneering species, the Eastern Red Cedar is among the first trees to emerge in disturbed soil. It is a long lived species; the oldest tree on record was 795 years old.
“The small blue fruits are an important winter food source for birds, rabbits, raccoons, skinks, foxes, opossums, and other animals. Cedar Waxwings and Northern Mockingbirds make heavy use of cedar berries as an important food source. A number of bird species including Mockingbirds, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, American Robins, and Logger head Shrikes favor cedar trees as nesting sites because the tree’s dense foliage makes it difficult for predators to reach unguarded nests.”

When taking over a field for a new pasture—

If there is first succession growth of young cedars in the field, use them! Leave a few in the field. The horses run to them when they are attacked by giant horse flies! They use the tree like a big scrub brush to get the flies off of places they can’t reach.

Dig up the young trees and plant as a wind screen. These trees were transplanted when they were about 3-4’ tall. They were planted on 12’ centers about 8 years ago.

These trees are on 20-foot centers in this eight year old planting. Note the reach into the fence requiring trimming. They are planted 5 feet from the fence; 10 feet would have been a better distance to avoid trimming off of the electric wire. These trees are on the outside of the fence so they are able to attain their rounded shape, providing the most wind protection.

“Though they are slow growing, Eastern Red Cedars are easily propagated by transplanting, cuttings, or by collecting seeds. And they are certain to give you and the wildlife on your property many years of pleasure,” Lance concludes.
Additional Resource:

Lance, Tony. “Red Cedar Trees: Nature, Lore and More,” The Tennessee Conservationist, January/February 2012 (15-17)

Photo cutlines:

Tight Wind Screen: Trees on 12’ centers: DSCN3580 and DSCN3581
Butt scratcher trees: DSCN3584, DSCN3585, and DSCN3586
Wind screen: Trees on 20’ centers, planted 5’ from fence: DSCN3582 and DSCN3583

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