L. T. NIELAND and A. S. JENSEN
Extension Forester (Retired) and Assistant Extension Forester
Fig. 1.-Mr. Nieland looks over one of the first commercial red cedar
plantings in Florida.
I 1 f,
Florida has two species of red cedar, Eastern red cedar
(Juniperus virginiana) and Southern red cedar (Juniperus sili-
cicola), or Florida red cedar as it is commonly called. They
are very similar in appearance. Southern red cedar, however,
has somewhat more slender, pendulous branches and smaller
berries (really cones). Southern red cedar is much more com-
mon in Florida.
Fig. 2.-Branch of Southern red cedar with ripe berries.
Florida (or Southern) red cedar is one of the State's most
valuable native forest trees. Many Florida farmers can profit
by making plantings of red cedar and by assisting to restock
areas where it formerly grew. Any kind of woods burning prac-
cally eliminates cedar.
Red cedar has many uses. Chief among these are pencil
wood, fence posts, cabinet wood and Christmas trees. It is also
an excellent tree for windbreak plantings, livestock shade and
shelter plantings, erosion control plantings and ornamental use.
Red cedar grows successfully on a wide variety of Florida
soils. It grows most rapidly on moist limestone or marl soils.
Clay soils that are not too acid also are excellent. But, it can
be grown very successfully in any hardwood hammock or on
good quality flatwoods soil. It should not be planted on the poor,
thirsty, deep sandy soils or wet, seepy, acid hardpan soils.
Cedar seedlings for planting always have been scarce. Some
are available from commercial nurseries in one or two Southern
states, but prices are often rather high. Although cedar seed-
ings cannot be produced as easily as some other forest tree
seedlings, farmers can grow their own seedlings if they take
proper care. Good cedar seedlings are worth some trouble.
Fig. 3.-Collecting ripe cedar seed by rubbing berries off a tree
into a tarpaulin.
COLLECTING THE SEEDS
Florida red cedar seeds are contained in small, dark blue
berries which ripen in December. Sometimes there are two seeds
in a berry, but usually only one. December and January are
best for collecting cedar seeds because many berries fall to the
ground later and may be difficult to recover.
A good way to collect cedar berries is to find an old seed tree
with a heavy crop of berries. Spread a sheet under the tree
and then rub the twigs lightly between the palms of the hands;
the seed will fall on the sheet and can be taken up easily. A
ladder may be needed to reach the higher branches. A pair of
tght cloth gloves will protect the hands if many seeds are to
Because some trees have a large percentage of blank, or
empty, seeds, it is safest to cut through about 20 seeds before
collecting from a tree. If more than half the seeds are blanks,
do not collect seed from that. tree, A good seed will show a
white kernel inside. A hand lens is helpful in seeing the tiny
After collecting, spread the berries out on a table or floor
and allow them to dry for about two weeks. .
Fig. 4.-Cedar seed as collected from the tree (right) and
properly cleaned (left).
SEED TREATMENT BEFORE PLANTING
Cedar seeds often do not sprout until the second year after
planting. They seem to need an "after ripening" period. Nature
accomplishes this by allowing the berries to lie among the leaves
on a cool, shaded forest floor for a year or longer. This "after
ripening" can be speeded up by the following procedure:
After the berries have been dried, soak them in water for
about four days. Then place them on a smooth, hard surface,
such as a concrete sidewalk, and rub them lightly (so as not
to crush the seeds inside the berries) with a wooden block. When
all berries are crushed, place them in a bucket or tub with a
little water. Rub the pulp thoroughly between the hands until
the seeds become well separated. Then add more water. Most
of the blank seeds and pulp can be floated off, leaving the good,
plump seeds at the bottom of the bucket. Repeat washing process
8 to 10 times until only clean seeds remain in bottom of pail.
When cleaned, the seeds are ready for cold storage. They may
be placed in small cloth bags and put in cans or jars surrounded
by commercial peat moss. They should be wet when put in the
moss. The moss should take up four times as much room as
the seeds. The peat moss must be wet but not dripping. After
packing the seed in moss, place the jar in an ice box or refriger-
ator. However, do not freeze the seed. A temperature around
40 degrees Fahrenheit is best. Leave the seeds in the refriger-
ator for about 60 days. If close examination reveals the
seed coats beginning to split open, plant the seed without further
delay. Sometimes 90 days are required for the after ripening
period. Examine the jar about every two weeks and remoisten
the moss if it gets too dry. The seeds must be kept moist while
in cold storage.
ESTABLISHING THE NURSERY
Location: Fifty percent shaded, if possible.
Bed width: Six feet.
Bed length: As necessary.
Fertilization: Complete fertilizer and ground limestone.
Drills: Eight inches apart.
Spacing of seeds: Six per inch.
Depth of planting: Not more than 1/4 inch.
Mulch: Leaf mold or decayed pine straw, not over 1 inch deep.
If possible, select a spot for the nursery that can be watered
conveniently. A moist location is preferable to a dry one. A
limestone or clay soil is best, but any good soil will do. The
nursery beds should be located where tall trees will shade the
ground from the afternoon sun. If the bed must be in the open,
it will pay to provide 50 percent shade with a plaster lath shade
about three feet above the bed. Cedar seeds sprout much better
if the soil is kept cool and moist. Young seedlings also will grow
better under such conditions.
The bed should be about six feet wide and as long as neces-
sary. Ground limestone (8 to 10 pounds per 100 square feet)
and a complete fertilizer, such as 8-8-8 (1 to 2 pounds per 100
square feet) should be applied and worked into the soil thor-
oughly to a depth of four to six inches. Rake the fertilized bed
level and smooth before you plant the seeds.
Sow the seeds in drills, about eight inches apart, dropping
about six seeds to the inch. If they come up too thickly in the
drill, the little seedlings can be taken up carefully with a garden
trowel and transplanted to open spaces or a new row. You can
do this best during the summer rainy season, or when the plants
are two to three inches high.
Fig. 5.-Cedar seedlings in a nursery bed.
You can plant cedars with a dibble, or tree planting iron,
the same tool used for hand-planting slash pine. Be sure to
carry the seedlings in a bucket of water during planting to keep
the small fibrous roots from drying out. Also, cedar seedlings
will survive transplanting much better if they are planted im-
mediately after being taken up from the nursery.
If there is a danger of the small seedlings being smothered
by large, rank growing weeds, some hoeing or cultivation may
be necessary during the first year. On the other hand, moderate
amounts of low-growing vegetation on the ground keeps it shaded
and may be better than clean cultivation. Our sandy soil gets
very hot under a full summer sun and the small seedlings can
not shade the soil enough to keep it cool during the first year
or two of growth.
Most old field land of fair to good quality is suitable for a
cedar planting. But red cedar should not be planted in a native
wiregrass sod. Growth in such a location will be disappointing.
However, if the wiregrass is completely destroyed by thorough
disking six months or more before planting, cedar will succeed
The foregoing suggestions on establishing a cedar nursery
probably appear rather difficult and complicated. Actually, this
is not the case. There are several advantages in growing your
own cedar seedlings. Home-grown seedlings can be planted
when weather conditions are most favorable and on the same
day they are taken up. Shipped seedlings may be several days
MARKETS FOR CEDAR
The market for red cedar for Christmas trees seems good.
Trees can be placed with a local store or advertised in the local
paper so that persons can come out and select their own. Red
cedar seedlings should grow to Christmas tree size in four to six
years, depending on the site. In four years on good soil many
trees will be six feet high. There is also a good market for
small three to four foot trees.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director
Cover the seeds lightly, not deeper than one quarter inch.
If planted too deep, they will not come up. The seeds should
be planted as early as possible in the spring, following the "after
After you plant the seeds, mulch the beds. While almost
any kind of fine leaf mold will do, half decayed pine straw is very
satisfactory. The material used should not cover the bed more
than one inch deep. Otherwise the tiny seedlings will have diffi-
culty in coming through the mulch.
After putting the mulch on the beds, water down heavily.
After this, water the beds often enough to keep the soil moist.
If the top soil dries out, even for a few days, germination may
Keep the beds free of grass and weeds. Cultivation of the
beds, other than for weed control, usually is not necessary.
After the seedlings are up and are beginning to make a good
growth, watch them for any appearance of cedar blight. This
is a fungous disease which sometimes appears in cedar beds.
If the tips of the little plants turn brown, spray or dust the beds
at once with 4-4-50 bordeaux mixture or copper A compound.
Thereafter, spray once a week until the disease disappears.
SOURCES OF SEEDLINGS
The Florida Forest Service nurseries raise red cedar seed-
lings in limited amounts. Seedling application blanks can be
obtained from your local Florida Forest Service representative
or from your local County Agent's office.
PLANTING THE SEEDLINGS
Florida red cedar seedlings survive best when transplanted
during the winter or during the rainy season. Also, the smaller,
yearling seedlings live better than the larger, two-year-old plant-
ing stock. By getting the seeds planted early, say by about
March 1, the seedlings may be large enough for transplanting
(five to eight inches tall) by late August or early September.
Spacing for red cedar, for all purposes, should be 6 x 6 feet, or
1,210 trees per acre. This gives each seedling plenty of sunlight
to develop into a well-shaped Christmas tree. A 6 x 6 foot spac-
ing seems about right for a cedar forest planting also. The
lateral branches will then drop off early because of the dense
shade, producing long, clear, knot-free logs for highest prices.