This cold winter, let us spend a moment admiring the native trees in Hamilton that stay green throughout the year, reminding us that spring is not far off! We begin with our two common cedars, neither of which is a true cedar!
Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Also known as Eastern Juniper, this tree is a relative of the shrubs whose fragrant berry is well-known for flavouring gin. The Redcedar berry is edible and a favourite for many birds. Deer also like to browse this tree, and it is overall a good source of winter food and shelter for different wildlife.
The tree is allelopathic, meaning it prevents other vegetation from growing around it. With strong and fibrous roots, Redcedar is particularly good at preventing soil erosion and holding water.
Eastern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
This fascinating tree is one of the oldest we know of in Ontario, growing gnarled and hidden on the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. The oldest one to date is over 1600 years old!
It is believed to have been the source of Vitamin C that staved off scurvy for Jacques Cartier’s crew, and is honoured in Indigenous cultures as a Tree of Life, for its medicinal uses.
With leaf-covered twigs year round, it is a favourite of browsing deer. We use the decay resistant and lightweight wood for fences and posts, and for things that will be standing in water.
Both cedars are great hedge trees and useful windbreaks, with the dense foliage being particularly good at trapping blowing snow. We also like to use these fragrant evergreen varieties for winter decor.
Next week we’ll reflect on our local pine trees, include the provincial tree of Ontario!