Crow’s Nest: About those cedars

November 19, 2014

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

A preserve visitor today stopped in today and talked with my wife Denise; he wondered why the cedars in the deep woods are dead, while others (presumably in hedgerows or other sunny places) are doing fine.

I wasn’t at the preserve today to answer this, one of my favorite questions. This query addresses the history of the land use as well as plant physiology, and references one of my favorite books, “Reading the Forested Landscape” by Tom Wessels with illustrations by Brian Cohen. It is part of the story we tell about the history of the land here, along with the cobblestone quarries also visible along our Deep Woods Trail, and barbed wire embedded in our trees.

The visitor didn’t leave his name or contact, so I mention it here. I wrote about this subject a while back. The presence of dead Eastern red cedar in our woods indicates that these woods were once clearcut. Cedar is an early-successional species that was later shaded out by the forest canopy that grew up around it. Cedar wood is rot-resistant so many of these trees died many years ago and their trunks and branches are left standing, indicators of the land’s history. Nature is a library, if we just know how to read it.