Herb: Southern Redcedar


Latin name: Juniperus silicicola


Family: Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)



Medicinal use of Southern Redcedar:

The leaves are analgesic, antirheumatic, diuretic and febrifuge. An infusion has been used in the treatment of fevers, stiff neck, backache, headaches, low fever, coughs, colds and diarrhoea. A decoction of the leaves has been used as a body rub and steam bath in the treatment of rheumatism. The following reports are for the closely related J. virginiana, they probably also apply to this species. The leaves are anthelmintic, diuretic, rubefacient and stimulant. A decoction has been used in the treatment of coughs and colds, general weakness and as a medicine for convalescents. The berries are anthelmintic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue and mildly antiseptic. They have been chewed as a treatment for mouth ulcers or made into a tea to treat colds, rheumatism, worms etc. The fresh young twigs are used as a diuretic. An infusion has been used both internally and as a steam bath in the treatment of rheumatism. The essential oil from the wood is an abortifacient, in some cases it has caused vomiting, convulsions, coma and death. The plant is said to contain the anticancer compound podophyllotoxin. The essential oil from the berries is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Composing".

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Tree

Height:
20 m
(66 feet)

Flovering:
April
to May


Scent:
Scented
Tree

Habitat of the herb:

Low wet areas of swamps, stream and creek margins and flood-plain woodlands. Tolerating varying levels of soil moisture, it also grows in open woods and abandoned fields, usually on limestone.

Edible parts of Southern Redcedar:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A thin, sweetish resinous flesh, the cones are about 7 - 10mm in diameter and have a thin skin.

Other uses of the herb:

Wood - straight-grained, very durable, light, brittle, soft, easily worked, very fragrant, insect-resistant. The wood does not shrink much on drying and weighs 30lb per cubic foot. The reddish wood is highly prized for cabinet making, it is also used for fencing, the casing of lead pencils etc. This tree has been over-exploited and large trees suitable for commercial exploitation are now rare. The following reports are for the closely related J. virginiana, they probably also apply to this species. An essential oil is obtained from the wood. Composed of cedar camphor or cedrol, it is used in soaps, as an insecticide and moth repellent, a deodorant, in polishes, perfumery etc. The leaves are used as an incense and are also either burnt or crushed and then scattered around as an insect repellent. The crushed bark can be used as a soft base in cradles. The bark has also been used to make mats. Some cultivars of this tree are suitable for ground cover when spaced about 90cm apart each way. "Tripartita" and "Chamberlaynii" have been recommended. A fairly wind resistant tree, it can be grown as part of a shelterbelt planting.

Propagation of Southern Redcedar:

The seed requires a period of cold stratification. The seed has a hard seedcoat and can be very slow to germinate, requiring a cold period followed by a warm period and then another cold spell, each of 2 - 3 months duration. Soaking the seed for 3 - 6 seconds in boiling water may speed up the germination process. The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Some might germinate in the following spring, though most will take another year. Another possibility is to harvest the seed "green" (when the embryo has fully formed but before the seedcoat has hardened). The seedlings can be potted up into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow on in pots until large enough, then plant out in early summer. When stored dry, the seed can remain viable for several years. Cuttings of mature wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel, September/October in a cold frame. Plant out in the following autumn. Layering in September/October. Takes 12 months.

Cultivation of the herb:

Low wet areas of swamps, stream and creek margins and flood-plain woodlands. Tolerating varying levels of soil moisture, it also grows in open woods and abandoned fields, usually on limestone.

Known hazards of Juniperus silicicola:

All parts of the plant might be toxic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.