Sounds like a 50’s B-movie just in time for Halloween.
In my wildfires post, I discussed the fire danger posed by cedars and promised you more information. Not long ago, like most rural residents, I considered cedar trees to be weeds that appeared on my acreage and in my flower beds. Irritating, but not dangerous. I changed my mind when I realized how invasive they are.
The Oklahoma Redcedar Task Force was formed in 2001 to come up with some solutions to this ever growing problem (pun intended.)
Per the task force’s report published in 2002, although there are five different native junipers in Oklahoma, the one causing most of the problems is the eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana.) The other natives are Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei), oneseed juniper (Juniperus monosperma), Pinchot juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) and Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum.)
As gardeners living in a dry state, we’re always thinking about drought tolerant native plants. We’ve embraced gallardias and bluestem grasses, but native isn’t always a good thing. Cedars suck. Literally. In the summer, a mature redcedar consumes up to 30 gallons of water a day. That water is diverted from hardwood trees like oaks because cedars sprout underneath the hardwood’s canopy, and later, starve it of water.
But, why you ask, is a native plant so out of control? It’s the lack of fire. Being a child of the 60’s, I am a Smoky the Bear fan, but the Great Plains were always prone to fire. Lightning strikes and controlled burning by Native American tribes kept the cedars in check. When Oklahoma was opened for pioneer settlement in 1889, land use was changed, and fire, which controlled the cedars, was nearly stopped. We created the perfect environment for cedar encroachment.
According to the task force, by “. . . 2013, 12.6 million acres will be infested with at least 50 trees per acre, and 8 million acres will be covered with at least 250 trees per acre, creating a 74% loss of native prairies, shrublands, cross timbers forests and other forested ecosystems (Oklahoma State University Rangeland Ecology and Management 2001).”
If all of this isn’t enough reason to grab a chain saw and get after it, there are two other reasons I hate cedars. They carry the spores of cedar apple rust, and I have five apple trees. I’ve planted disease resistant varieties like Enterprise and Liberty, but they still suffer. I’m also really allergic to cedar pollen.
But all is not lost. Since the report was published in 2002, there has been some improvement. The Aromatic Cedar Association was created “to provide information regarding the management and utilization of “aromatic cedar” . . . “[to] connect businesses, individuals and government agencies together to promote and develop the eastern redcedar industry.” The redcedar industry has sprung up much like the trees themselves. Trees are now harvested and used for cedar oil, fence posts and lumber. Other entrepeneurs have improved devices to rid farmers and ranchers of the trees.
Two brothers from Hinton created their own saw for tree removal after the one they used was inadequate. Their invention, the Dougherty Tree Saw, won a 2004 Journal Record Innovator of the Year award. I’m impressed.
Word is beginning to get out about the cedar menace, and you, dear reader, are instrumental in spreading the news. So, get out there, and let others know that if they’re not vigilant, a cedar tree may soon be marching toward you. Just like in the movies.