The local tree often called “cedar” is a native plant, Juniperus ashei, with many people sharing the misconception that it is an invasive species. Many people are allergic to its pollen, which makes an appearance in our area starting in December and continuing into February. Juniperus ashei is dioecious, meaning the male and female reproductive organs appear on separate plants. The male cedars release the pollen and the female cedars have dark blue berries after pollination.
Regular and natural flash fires kept the cedar population located primarily in the protected canyons and arroyos before 1800. Without the fires, the cedars dominate the landscape. The best time to control cedar growth is when they first germinate, as they are easily pulled out of the ground. If a cedar is cut below any green needles, it will not spring up from the roots, as many hardwood trees do.
The durability of the cedar wood makes it suitable for fence posts, outdoor furniture, and building materials. The endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler uses the shaggy bark from mature trees as the primary component for its nest. Many animals eat the juniper berries and several native plants, including madrones and cedar sages, depend upon the enriched soil formed by the decaying needle-like leaves beneath the cedar.
The mature Juniperus ashei trees should be recognized for their contributions and not cleared indiscriminately. Biodiversity is always best for an ecosystem. Leaving mature trees and harvesting monocultures of cedar to allow other native plants to survive is the recommended procedure.