Juniperus bermudiana is a species of juniper endemic to Bermuda. This species is most commonly known as Bermuda cedar, but is also referred to as Bermuda juniper. Historically, this tree formed woodland that covered much of Bermuda. Settlers cleared part of the forest and the tree was used for many purposes including building construction and was especially prized for shipbuilding. Scale insects introduced during the Second World War construction of United States airbases in Bermuda devastated the forests, killing over 99% of the species (an event known in Bermuda as 'the Blight' or 'the Cedar Blight'). Since then, the salt tolerant Casuarina equisetifolia has been planted as a replacement species, and a small number of Bermuda cedars have been found to be resistant to the scale insects. Populations of certain endemic birds which had co-evolved with the tree have plummeted as a result of its demise, while endemic cigalas (or cicada) and solitary bees were driven to extinction.
The Bermuda cedar is an evergreen tree growing up to 15 metres (49 feet) tall with a trunk up to 60 centimetres (24 inches) thick, though larger specimens have existed in the past. It has thin bark that sheds in strips. The foliage is produced in blue-green sprays, with the individual shoots 1.3–1.6 millimetres (3⁄64–1⁄16 inch) wide, four-sided (quadriform) in section. The leaves are scale-like (1.5–2.5 mm long, up to 4 mm long on strong-growing shoots and 1–1.5 mm broad), with an inconspicuous gland. They are arranged in opposite decussate pairs, occasionally decussate whorls of three. Juvenile plants bear needle-like leaves 4–8 mm long. The cones are irregularly globose to broad pyriform (4–6 mm long and 5–8 mm broad), soft and berry-like, green at first, maturing bluish-purple about 8 months after pollination. They contain one or two (rarely three) seeds. The male cones are 4–6 mm long and begin yellow, turning brown after pollen release in early spring.
A threat to the continued existence of Bermuda's cedars arose in the mid-1940s when the species was attacked by two species of scale insects, Lepidosaphes newsteadi and Carulaspis minima, which were unintentionally introduced from the United States' mainland during the wartime construction of US airbases in Bermuda for the US Navy and Army Air Forces. By 1978, these parasites had killed 99% of Bermuda's cedars, some 8 million trees. However, the remaining 1% of the trees proved somewhat resistant to the scale insects, and efforts by Bermuda's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Parks to propagate scale-resistant plants throughout Bermuda have helped in protecting the trees from extinction.
In the 1950s and 1960s Casuarina equisetifolia (also known as horsetail sheoak and Australian pine), native to Australia, was introduced into Bermuda to replace the Bermuda cedar's windbreak functions. C. equisetifolia have proven to be a somewhat competitive plant in Bermuda, this is due to casuarina leaf litter suppressing the germination and growth of understory plants by means of allelopathy. Similar to the Bermuda cedar, C. equisetifolia are resistant to wind and salt, features that have made C. equisetifolia a popular choice with gardeners in Bermuda. Other species introduced in an attempt to replace the cedar forest included the bay grape (Coccoloba uvifera). Along with C. equisetifolia, the Bermuda cedar's main introduced competitor for space is the Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius).
The Bermuda cedar is occasionally grown as an ornamental tree outside of Bermuda, and may have become naturalised on Hawaii and Saint Helena. It is reported that more than 6,500 of them were planted in Hawaii between 1921 and 1953, and that it has established wild populations there.
The Bermuda cedar forests that covered much of the Bermuda landscape, pre-deforestation, fed and housed many species of bird that had evolved and adapted to live amongst them. With the loss of so many trees, the populations of these bird species have declined to near extinction including the Bermuda white-eyed vireo, and a possible subspecies of eastern bluebird. Efforts by the public and the government have been made to boost their populations along with the populations of the Bermuda cedar. However the Bermuda cedar may take 200 years to reach full maturity, and the birds may not survive this long. With recent sea level rises, some low-lying old-growth cedars are being infiltrated with seawater and are beginning to die off.
Uses and history
It is known for its heavy, sweet aroma, useful and attractive reddish timber, significant role in Bermuda's history, and notable presence in Bermuda's historic homes.
When English settlers arrived in Bermuda, forests of Bermuda cedar flourished throughout the islands, and the species continued to thrive even as settlers developed the land. The timber was utilized by settlers due to its durability and workability, particularly in construction (homes, churches, jails, shipbuilding, interior woodworking, furniture construction, coffin-making) and export for sale. In addition, the cones were used by settlers as food for both themselves and their animals, and to prepare cedarberry syrup as a treatment for toothaches and coughs. Settlers also boiled the shoots in water to create an elixir for lowering fevers. Furthermore, the timber was found to repel moths and fleas as well as prevent mildew and rot, so many Bermuda residents used the wood to line closets and drawers.
The timber was especially prized by shipbuilders. It could be worked as soon as it was felled, and was naturally resistant to rot and woodworms. It was as strong as oak, but much lighter, contributing to the speed and maneuverability for which Bermudian ships were noted and prized. Its abundance enabled Bermudians to turn wholesale to a maritime economy after the dissolution of the Somers Isles Company in 1684.
In 1627, in an effort to conserve Bermuda's cedar forests, the local assembly passed legislation to restrict export of Bermuda cedar for shipbuilding. In addition, between 1693 and 1878, the Bermuda legislature passed sixteen further acts placing restrictions on the uses of Bermuda cedar. Despite these Acts, the shipbuilding industry eventually denuded much of Bermuda's landscape by the 1830s. Only the dawn of the age of steam-driven, steel-hulled ships allowed the forest to recover.
After Bermuda's economy became wholly devoted to maritime activities, farmland was quickly reforested to provide timber for shipbuilding. Families conserved cedar on their land jealously as a scarce and highly valued resource which would appreciate over decades as the trees grew. For many generations, the British Government and its local functionaries, and many visitors, bemoaned the failure of Bermudians to fell the forest and return to farming, which was generally perceived as idleness. On the relationship between the islanders and the cedar, Purser Richard Otter of the Royal Navy observed in a 1828 publication:
Of the twelve thousand acres which Bermuda is said to contain, two thousand might be brought into cultivation if there was less veneration for cedar trees, and a trifling exertion made to drain or embank the marshes, whereas at present there are not two hundred acres disturbed by the spade or the plough; indeed there is but one plough in the Colony, and that belongs to an Englishman named Winsor, who has proved what could be made of ground apparently barren...
Many historic homes in Bermuda feature interior woodwork and furnishings made from Bermuda cedar. Examples of these homes include the Mayflower House, Camden House, Tucker House, and Verdmont House, the latter of which, according to the Bermuda National Trust, contains the colony's finest collection of antique Bermuda cedar furnishings. Because it is now both scarce, and expensive, and it is featured in many grand homes, its scent has come to be associated with wealth.
- Wingate, D.B.; Adams, R.; Gardner, M. (2011). "Juniperus bermudiana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2011: e.T30376A9532928. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-2.RLTS.T30376A9532928.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
- Hardy, Jessie Moniz (2020-10-14). "Dark Bottom, a 1950s haven and horror". The Royal Gazette. Bermuda. Retrieved 2021-10-05.
Dark Bottom, a dense forest of cedar trees just below the lighthouse where he and his friends played.
“It was not scary by day, but at night if you had to cross that going somewhere you made time,” the 75-year-old said. “There was no stopping.”
He thinks the story was made up to ensure the neighbourhood children were home on time.
“We thought it was extraordinary that the beast had five fingers,” he said.
The trees were killed by the cedar blight in the late early 1950s
- Undlin, Siri (2020-12-23). "13 Different Types of Cedar Trees (All Cedar Tree Varieties)". PlantSnap. PlantSnap Inc. Retrieved 2021-10-05.
This tree-covered much of the island, but the forest was decimated first by settlers, and then later by an infestation of scale. It is an event known today as “the blight.” This caused a variety of pollinators to become extinct and is a harrowing example of how unchecked human development can cause a catastrophe in the natural world.
- "Speciation at Spittal Pond". Evolving Shores. Explorations in Biology, Bermuda College. Retrieved 2021-10-05.
in the 1940s, two species of scale were accidentally introduced, and, unable to deal with this foreign pest, 95% of Bermuda’s cedar trees were killed.
The 5% of trees who survived the blight were found to be resistant to the scale. These have been propagated since then, and the Bermuda cedar survives today.
Unfortunately the cedar was Bermuda’s main tree cover up until the blight, with little diversity to fill the void when the trees died off. Thus, some species who depended on and thrived in its branches, such as bluebirds and white-eyed vireo became critically endangered along with it. Others, such as the endemic cicada went extinct without it.
- "Leader of fight against tree blight dies". The Royal Gazette. Bermuda. 2011-02-10. Retrieved 2021-10-05.
Mr. Groves, who was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his services to Bermuda and agriculture, was Assistant Director of Agriculture in the late 1940s when a blight decimated the Island's cedar forests.Sen. Walwyn Hughes, who would succeed Mr. Groves as Director of Agriculture in 1975, said Mr. Groves led the way in identifying trees to replace the dead cedars and went back and forth to the Caribbean to secure casuarinas and other trees."It fell to him and people like Jack King who were in the department then to virtually reforest the whole Island, Sen. Hughes said. "He went back and forth bringing in the casuarinas and other trees."
- Mastny, Lisa. "Bermuda". World Wildlife Fund. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2021-10-05.
An estimated 95 percent of the surviving population of native Bermuda cedar (Juniperus bermudiana) was destroyed between 1946 and 1951 (Rueger and von Wallmenich 1996), following the accidental introduction of two coccoid scale insects (Sterrer 1998a). Only an estimated one percent of the original cedar forest survived the blight (BBP 1997).
- Little Jr., Elbert L. (1989). Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced). U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service. p. 321.
- "Bermuda: The Best Places to Get Away from It All in Bermuda". Frommer's. FrommerMedia LLC. Retrieved 2021-10-05.
Seymour's Pond Nature Reserve. Under the management of the Bermuda Audubon Society, this 1-hectare (2 1/2-acre) site attracts the occasional birder as well as romantic couples looking for a little privacy. Just past the pond, you'll spot pepper trees and old cedars that escaped the blight;
- SKETCHES OF BERMUDA, OR SOMERS' ISLANDS. BY RICHARD OTTER, PURSER, R. N. London: PUBLISHED BY EFFINGHAM WILSON, ROYAL EXCHANGE, AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS; ALSO BY THE PRINCIPAL MAP AND CHART SELLERS. 1828. PRINTED BY PLUMMER AND BREWIS, LOVE LANE, EASTCHEAP. Dedication: TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCE WILLIAM HENRY, DUKE OF CLARENCE AND ST. ANDREW'S, EARL OF MUNSTER, GENERAL OF MARINES, LORD HIGH ADMIRAL OF GREAT BRITAIN, K.G. K.T. K.S.E. D.C.L. & F.R.S. THE FOLLOWING Sketches of Bermuda, or Somers' Islands, ARE, BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS'S GRACIOUS PERMISSION, HUMBLY DEDICATED, BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS' MOST GRATEFUL, MOST OBEDIENT, AND DEVOTED SERVANT, RICHARD COTTER.
- "Origin of the Juniperus Name". Juniperus Capital. Retrieved January 17, 2011.
- Wingate, D.B.; Adams, R.; Gardner, M. (2011). "Juniperus bermudiana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2011: e.T30376A9532928. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-2.RLTS.T30376A9532928.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021. Listed as Critically Endangered (CR B1+2c v2.3)
- Adams, R. P. (2004). Junipers of the World: The genus Juniperus. Trafford Publishing ISBN 978-1-4120-4250-5
- Earle, Christopher J., ed. (2018). "Juniperus bermudiana". The Gymnosperm Database.
- Farjon, A. (2005). Monograph of Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 978-1-84246-068-9
- Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, & Zoo. Bermuda Biodiversity Project. Retrieved April 3, 2006.
- Forbes, Keith Archibald (2006). Bermuda's Flora. Bermuda Online. Retrieved April 3, 2006.
- Forbes, Keith Archibald (2006). Bermuda's Historic Houses. Bermuda Online. Retrieved April 3, 2006.
- Morisawa, TunyaLee (1999). Weed Notes: Juniperus bermudiana (pdf file). Retrieved April 3, 2006.
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