There are few trees in any country which have attracted so much attention or monopolized conversation to the same extent as the native cedar tree of Bermuda, Juniperus bermudiana. During the past seven or eight years, numerous reports on the condition of the cedar have been published in local newspapers and other publications, and also in scientific literature and periodicals published in other countries. People in all walks of live in Bermuda have vivid memories of the hill sides, the valleys, the coated banks and the road sides being covered and flanked with healthy green cedar trees; but now the picture is quite different. Visitors to the Colony may find it difficult to visualize how pleasantly green the Colony was to 1944, for although many of the trees are still standing, most are dead, presenting instead of that lovely fresh green shade, a grey, rather desolate appearance.
An obvious question is, what happened to the trees to cause them to die in a comparatively short period of under ten years? It is a story only too well known by local residents. Let it suffice to say here, that a tiny scale inset known as the Juniper scale (Carulaspis viscid), only just visible to the naked eye, was accidentally imported from California, and spread like wild fire through the trees, causing their death. Fortunately, there are some quite healthy trees left in the Somerset area and other isolated specimens scattered throughout the islands. Many seedling trees will also be seen growing happily in among the dead trees, so that although probably seventy per cent of the parent trees are dead, there are hopeful signs that the cedar may again dominate the vegetation of Bermuda.
The Bermuda cedar is an endemic species. That is, it has not been found growing in the walk state in any other part of the world. It is therefore extremely valuable to Bermuda in many ways. Being the dominant tree, the cedar formed the background of the Bermudian landscape. Property owners took extreme care to preserve as many trees as possible. Just sufficient trees were felled to build the house and other buildings. Paths and driveways frequently made detour in order to save some good trees. Holes were often left in the stone walls to avoid cutting down another tree. Such a foundation to the garden was a great asset, for in many cases little other planting was required. The cedar provided the necessary shade from the sun during the summer months and afforded protection from high winds, which frequently approach gale force in the winter months, both to the house and to the more tender plants such as fruit, vegetables and flowers.
There are few places in the world where to development of the land has taken place within a forest, as was the case in Bermuda. It was indeed unique to see the trees standing so close to the buildings and nestling as the houses did in among the trees. Each house had a great deal of privacy and the whole Colony appeared larger because one’s view of the surrounding property was obstructed by the thick growth of the cedar.
In addition to useful qualities as growing trees the cedar provides excellent timber, used in numerous ways. Articles of furniture made of cedar have a high-polished finish. As a fuel the cedar has always been eagerly sought especially through the winter months when a fire in the living room is a pleasant comfort in the evening. The pleasing aroma from the burning wood creates an air of distinction, of homeliness and of quiet relaxation. Small wonder then that a tree possessing so many prized qualities should be the concern of practically every Bermudian and resident in the Colony.