Sunday, December 07, 2014

Cedar, sycamore & honeysuckle

As time approached to deck the halls when I was a kid, we were somewhat challenged --- no one had planted pine or spruce on either farm (although my maternal grandfather had rows of windbreak conifers that could be raided at will).

So most of the time we relied on good old Red Cedar --- the only conifer native to south central Iowa. 

Cedars often are scorned as Christmas tree material because immature varieties of the right size tend to be spikey and far from the classic shape. So we usually bought Christmas trees, although not always.

But material for wreaths, garlands and other green flourishes nearly always came from mature cedar trees; Lord knows there are plenty of them. Red Cedars are very hardy and very prolific. Specimens as old as 450 years have been located in Iowa; to the south, an 800-year-old Red Cedar has been reported in the Ozarks. And it also should be pointed out that Red Cedars actually aren't cedar at all, but a variety of juniper.

I prefer the gold and green hues of "male" cedars --- producers of seed cones; birds prefer the waxy blue berry-like seed cones of "female" cedars. But either will work. That preference on the part of birds, by the way, is why there are so many cedars --- our feathered friends eat the berries, then scatter the seeds. And cedars do not produce cones every year --- so you can't always rely on the same tree.

I found this Red Cedar loaded with seed cones at Red Haw yesterday --- and now I'm thinking of going back with clippers and a bag to bring a little cedar home for the holidays.

My new-found cedar friend was growing under a sycamore tree --- with a holiday agenda of its own: Seed pods suspended from its branches like so many brown-toned Christmas balls.

Elsewhere, bush honeysuckle berries provided a little color proving, perhaps, that Christmas is where you find it.

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