Eastern red cedar

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Red cedar chest
MFA# 1991.483
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virgiana)


An evergreen tree, Juniperus virginiana, native to eastern North America. Eastern red cedar contains an aromatic, volatile oil that makes it resistant to rotting and repulsive to insects. It has dark reddish brown heartwood and whitish sapwood. The medium strength timber was extensively used for pencils, fence posts, and cabinets. It was also cut in thin sheets for use as veneer. The eastern red cedar is now scarce and rarely used.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Juniperus virginiana; cèdre de Virginie (Fr.); zimbro-da-Virgínia (Port.); pencil cedar; red cedar; southern red cedar; red juniper

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Color: heartwood is reddish or violet-brown; sapwood is pale yellow; can be cut with streaks and stripes
  • Grain/texture: Straight grain with fine, even texture; knows can be present
  • Durability: Very resistant to rot and insect attack.
  • Odor: Distinct with after scent; commonly used in closets to repel insects.

Working Properties

  • Easy to work, notwithstanding any knots or irregularities present in the wood.
  • High silica content can dull cutters.
  • Glues and finishes well, though in many applications, the wood is left unfinished to preserve its aromatic properties.

Resources and Citations

  • The Wood Database: Eastern red cedar
  • Alden Identification Services, Microscopic Wood Identification: Link
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996

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