NORMAN — The eastern red cedar continues to take Cleveland County by storm and for many landowners, there is no end in sight.
The USDA estimated more than eight million acres in Oklahoma were infested, with at least 50 trees per acre. The encroachment is increasing at an estimated rate of 762 acres a day.
It has been estimated that more than $157 million was needed to address juniper control, and that number is no doubt increasing. Oklahoma State University estimated that by 2013, if our cedars were left untreated, it would cost the state $447 million in economic losses.
While there are a number of control options — such as herbicide, bulldozing, sawing and clipping — none are as cost effective as controlled burning. If fire is not an option where you live and most other removal methods are too costly, don’t worry. You have options. The easiest way to slow the spread is to remove them while they are young.
Pick a nice day, sharpen your hand pruners, lops or saw, and take a walk around your property. I bet you have cedars. If you clip them while they are only a few feet tall, this will make your life much easier.
Cedars are easiest to spot during winter, as they are the dominant evergreen species in central Oklahoma. Lopping them off below the lowest green stem is all it takes and, when small, they are easy to remove with simple hand tools and minimal labor.
On the other hand, when you allow them to mature, that is when the trouble starts. If you have large cedars around your property but do not want to spend money to have them professionally removed, you still have an option available.
Girdling, a sawing method that cuts off the vascular system (phloem and xylem) is an easy way to kill mature trees. Using a hatchet, hand saw or chainsaw, simply cut a ring a few inches deep around the trunk (meet your cut on the opposite side) below the lowest-growing limb and your work is complete.
To take girdling even further, removing female trees is the first place to start. Cedars are dioecious meaning the males produce pollen and the females flower and fruit separately. When you see an individual covered in blue berries, it is a female. To slow reproduction in the immediate vicinity of your property, simply girdle the mature berry-producing females and leave the skeleton standing.
Use caution and common sense when administering a girdle cut and do not girdle a tree near a home or other structure. This method is best used in pasture and range situations.
Do your part to slow the spread of cedars on your property and selectively remove large female trees if you have the ability to do so.
Heath Herje, is employed with the OSU Cooperative Extension.