We lost a large, old Southern Red Cedar tree (Juniperus cilicicola) at Camp Salmen recently. It provided beauty and shade to front of the Salmen Lodge for years but had unfortunately become a lingering victim of Hurricane Katrina. It was leaning dangerously close to the historic lodge, advanced in age, and though someone had tried to save it and the building by propping it up with a piece of telephone pole, it wasn’t enough to insure the survival of either one, so the tree had to go. It’s a shame because it was apparently a relic from the earliest days of the Boy Scouts at their new campground. I counted 85 rings, which made it around 1929 when it either volunteered or was possibly planted as an ornamental shrub.
For those who pay close attention to such things, these are not true cedars but are junipers. It was a special coastal variety, preferring the sandy soils found along Bayou Liberty and able to tolerate a little salty coastal air, unlike the more common Red Cedar that grows inland all across the eastern half of the U.S.
All in all, Cedars are nice trees. Around a house they have a wonderful fragrance. Look closely at the cedar tree’s greenery and instead of needles, each twig is covered with numerous tiny chlorophyll-filled “leaves” that overlap each other like scales on a fish. Their pinkish/red-brown wood is rot resistant and, as an added bonus, repels moths. Cedar-lined chest and closets are known to protect clothing from these insects year round. Native Americans used to make excellent hunting bows with the wood and modern uses include pencils. It is possible it was a Red Cedar that was spotted high on the Scotlandville bluff by the French explorer d ’Iberville who gave Baton Rouge (“Red Stick”) its name.
These conifers are somewhat brittle in old age and lose limbs from various mishaps. They can also become misshapen by smothering vines but they have the potential to attain a classic “Christmas Tree” shape as well as reach the ripe old age of 800 years. We have several rugged specimens here and there in the park.