Wednesday, February 08, 2017Register
 Invasive Spotlight

 [Photo: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University,]
[Photo: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University,]

Eastern Red Cedar
Juniperus virginiana

Description: Eastern red cedar is a medium-sized evergreen tree in the Cypress family (Cupressaceae), and grows from 30-40 feet (meters) tall. The form of young trees is pyramidal in shape while mature trees exhibit a more columnar shape. Eastern red cedars have a bushy trunk, with dense, low-lying branches. The bark is gray to reddish-brown and shedding and leaves are simple, opposite and green to blue-green in color. The leaves are fragrant, scale-like or needle-like, and 0.6-1.2 centimeters (1/4-1/2 inch) long. Eastern redcedar is dioecious (although can be monoecious), and the male cones are yellowish brown, papery, ovate and 0.2-0.4 cm long. The female cone is a dark blue to pale blue and berry-like and grows in bunches along the branches.

Life History: Eastern red cedar flowers from March through May. Eastern red cedars become reproductively mature from 6-10 years of age and bear cones every 2 to 3 years after that. Red cedars are wind pollinated from mid February to mid May depending on location. Seeds mature from late July to mid November and are dispersed by birds or small mammals. These trees typically live about 150 years but can live up to 300 years.

Habitat: The eastern red cedar grows in open, upland wooded areas, but can also be found in dry, rocky areas. Eastern red cedar prefers moist, well-drained soils but can adapt to a multitude of soil types and climates. They can grow in climates with precipitation ranging from 40-152 cm (16-60 in) and live at altitudes from sea level up to 1524 meters (5000 feet). Eastern red cedars can grow in soil with pH ranging from 4.7-7.8 and they are drought tolerant. They do not tolerate fire.

Distribution: Juniperus virginiana spans the entire eastern portion of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains and also occurs in Oregon.

Status: Although eastern red cedar is native to the US, it is considered invasive because of its ability to colonize, establish, and take over non-native habitats such as prairie and crosstimbers habitats. Eastern red cedar is a threat to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and other tallgrass prairie remnants throughout the Midwest. The NRCS estimates that by 2013 eastern red cedar will have invaded 12.6 million acres in Oklahoma.


Bugwood Wiki, The Nature Conservancy

Oklahoma Redcedar Task Force

USDA NRCS Plant Fact Sheet

 Upland Prairie: Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

Tall-grass upland prairies once covered much of the eastern Great Plains and stretched from southern Manitoba down to east Texas where they converged with the Texas-Louisiana coastal tall-grass prairie. Upland prairies are distinct from coastal prairies in total precipitation rates and underlying soil types. Upland tall-grass prairies receive about 71 cm (28 inches) of annual rainfall and typically have rich, deep, well-drained soils. This makes the upland tall-grass prairie lands ideal for conversion to agricultural lands. As a result, upland tall-grass prairies now mostly exist as patchy fragments on federal lands or preserves, with less than 3 million acres (4%) of this habitat remaining.

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is located in Osage County, Oklahoma, at the southern end of the Flint Hills ecoregion. The Flint Hills ecoregion is atypical of the Great Plains, in that the rolling grasslands are underlain with rocky soils featuring shallow, limestone outcroppings. The poor quality of these soils for agricultural use is the primary reason that this comparatively large prairie remnant remains mostly untouched by man. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is at the southern end of an intact tall-grass prairie ecosystem that stretches over 50 miles wide, from Northern Oklahoma up to the border of Kansas and Nebraska, covering the entire eastern one-third of Kansas. The preserve, owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, extends over 45,000 acres and represents the largest protected remnant of native tall-grass prairie in the world. .

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County, OK [Photo: Harvey Payne, Tallgrass Prairie Preserve]
The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County, OK [Photo: Harvey Payne, Tallgrass Prairie Preserve]

Each year about one-third of the preserve is burned in a controlled burn regimen called "patch burning". In addition to prescribed burns, the biodiversity of the prairie is maintained through grazing by the 2500 head of bison that live on the preserve.

Biodiversity on the Preserve
Burning and grazing management help promote biodiversity of the tall-grass prairie community. In addition to the prairie grasses and forbs, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is home to 23 species of fish, 55 species of reptiles and amphibians, 212 species of birds and 41 species of mammals, including threatened and endangered species such as the western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara) and the mountain lion (Puma concolor). Additionally, the preserve has 168 moth and 92 butterfly species serving as important pollinators for prairie plant life.

Threats to the Preserve and to Upland Prairies
The Nature Conservancy has identified invasive species such as sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) and eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) as important threats to the biodiversity of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. They have combated these species through controlled burns and sustainable grazing management. Tall-grass prairies, in general, and the areas surrounding the preserve, more specifically, are threatened by poor land management and habitat fragmentation.

 Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Map

[Figure: Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, courtesy of The Nature Conservancy]
[Figure: Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, courtesy of The Nature Conservancy]

The map above depicts the spatial extent of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County, OK.  Go to The Nature Conservancy's Spatial Data Resources page to view and download maps of The Nature Conservancy's Lands and Waters and Conservation Projects throughout the world.

 Threatened Spotlight

 [Photo: Mrs. W.D. Bransford, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center]
[Photo: Mrs. W.D. Bransford, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center]

Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
Platanthera praeclara

Description: The western prairie fringed orchid is a showy, erect, long-lived perennial that can grow up to 4 ft high. It has a single, smooth stem and 2-5 simple leaves which are thick and hairless and hug the stem. This orchid can produce up to two dozen fringed, white or creamy white flowers per plant. It closely resembles the eastern prairie fringed orchid except its flower petals are longer (up to 1 1/2 inches long) and triangular shaped as opposed to the shorter (1 inch long), ovate petals of the eastern species.

Life History: This species produces vegetative shoots in late May and flowers in mid-June to late July. The species flowers for about 3 weeks. It requires pollination for seed production and is nocturnally pollinated by the hawkmoth (order Lepidoptera). Seeds are dispersed by winds and flooding in early fall. On average, this species lives about three years.

Habitat: Historically, this species occurs exclusively in wet meadows of unplowed tallgrass prairie. This plant has also been spotted in ditches and old fields.

Distribution: Platanthera praeclara grows west of the Mississippi River and ranges from Manitoba in the north, south to Oklahoma. It occurs in 75 sites within this range.

Status: The western prairie fringed orchid was listed as threatened under the Federal Wildlife and Plants list in 1989. This species is threatened mainly due to habitat loss from conversion of prairie land to croplands. Other factors which threaten this species are competition from invasive plants, alteration of wetland hydrology, mowing, fire suppression, pesticide use and overgrazing. Eighty percent of the sites where this species grows are on protected lands.


USFWS, Mountain Prairie Region

USFWS, Prairie Fringed Orchids Fact Sheet

Western Prairie Fringed Orchid: Monitoring and Research

Minnesota DNR

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