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How to Identify Juniper Cedar Cypress Trees

Utah Juniper image by Carol Hyman from

A juniper cedar cypress tree is often called a cedar, but it actually is part of the cypress family. Nonetheless, it is more formally known as the eastern red cedar. It is an evergreen with often aromatic foliage and wood. The wood from these trees has been widely used in chests and in closets. It is used as both an ornamental tree in yards and as a windbreak in rural areas.

Check the height and shape of the tree. Eastern red cedars grow to a height of 40 to 50 feet and have a spread of between 6 and 8 feet. They generally grow in a columnar or pyramidal form when planted in a sunny location.

View the color of the foliage. The tree is generally dark green in color and can turn reddish in prolonged cold weather. The foliage is dense and aromatic. The leaves--or small needles--are whorled and less than an inch in length. If the tree is still young, the leaves often grow in sets of three.

Find the berries to help further identify the eastern red cedar. The fleshy round fruits--about 1/2 inch in diameter--are generally colored a pale blue-green to dark blue and feature a silverish bloom. Birds often feed on these berries, helping to spread new plants to other parts of the region.

Pull the branches of the eastern red cedar apart to scan the bark. It should be reddish brown to gray in color. The bark is thin and often peels in slender shreds. Twigs on the newer, outermost branches are often green and flexible.


When inspecting an evergreen tree to determine what type of tree it is, it may be wise to wear gloves in order to avoid getting poked by sharp needles and to prevent getting sap on your hands.

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