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Friday Flowers: White Cedar Cones

Posted Nov 28 2008 10:56am

This is my 81st Friday Flowers post and I could likely continue for a lifetime featuring beautiful blooms and interesting plants, especially if I frequented botanical gardens and had time for a lot of travel. Winter has come early in our area and the ground is covered in several inches of snow. The birds are animals are already having to work harder to find food and my feeders are very active. Our evergreen trees have provided the only spots of outdoor colour this week as the sky has met the earth in a uniform grey and white curtain. Conifers provide shelter and food during the winter for many creatures. I decided to feature cones from the variety of evergreens we have around here as they are the flower and fruit, so to speak, of the conifers. I am not a botanist by any stretch, so welcome comments and corrections to my text.

The White Cedar is a native tree to the northeastern regions of North America. It is small and shrubby and grows only 10-20 metres in height at the most. The scaly leaves are arranged in fan-shaped branches. My grandmother liked to pick a little piece of cedar to rub in her hands, a habit I have also acquired. The scent from the oil is fresh and strong and is right at the top with lavender as my favourite leaf smell. The first big gift my husband gave me before we were married was a cedar chest. It still stores our out of season clothes and the aroma from the wood remains strong after many years.

Cedars in the limestone rock of the Elora Gorge

The foliage is rich is vitamin C and is said to to have cured scurvy experienced by European explorers. It is a favoured food for deer in the winter and they can strip a tree very quickly. The Cedar Waxwing is named because of its habit of eating ripe cedar cones and other birds also enjoy the seeds. It grows in a variety of soils including swamps and rock. Some stunted white cedars growing in the limestone rock of the Niagara Escarpment are said to be nearly a thousand years old. Cedars grow out of the limestone cliffs of the Elora Gorge and we saw them in cracks of the alvar pavement on Manitoulin Island this summer.

I took this picture on November 8th this year near the river, just before the snow came. The woods were bare and this misshapen cedar touched the ground at the river's edge providing shelter for a variety of birds. The hawthorn berries on the right will soon be eaten but the cedar tree will remain green and fresh throughout the long winter, and its abundant leaves and cones an important source of food.
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