Reclaiming Wooded Areas from Redcedar Trees

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
The Payne County Extension Office typically gets several calls a year from clients wishing to renovate acreage overwhelmed with redcedar trees. We are happy to help. Our advice is dependent on a variety of factors, including of course, the primary intended use of the land. Since this is a landscape/gardening column, here are some helpful suggestions from that perspective with the primary goal being removal of the redcedars while protecting the health of the remaining forest.

Every situation is different, but let’s assume that the property in question is typical. In other words, it has a large number of redcedar trees of different sizes growing throughout a mixed stand of other species. In Payne County, the most dominant species will likely be
oaks.

This is an important point because oak trees do not do well when their root system is compromised, either by direct damage or indirect damage brought on by compaction or changing the existing surface grade. Oak decline can be a slow process, typically taking 4-5 years before the trees die completely. This means redcedar removal either by bulldozer or backhoe is not the best option since below ground damage will be unavoidable.

A better option is to cut the redcedars off at or near ground level and either leave it to decay or have it ground out. Redcedars will not resprout from the base so simply leaving the stump is not a bad option if it does not detract from other uses for the land.

Another important point is to consider the microclimate created by the redcedars. Are the desirable trees completely shaded or protected from the wind? If so, removing all the redcedars at once might be too much change for the remaining trees to deal with. In some cases, it’s better to remove the redcedars a few at a time (over several years) so the forest can slowly adjust to the change.

Since threat of fire is often one of the primary reasons for redcedar removal, you might also consider limbing up and/or selectively removing some branches on the redcedars that are left in place. This can help to slow the spread should a fire get started while still helping the other plants adjust to the changing conditions.

Be prepared for some unexpected changes as the landscape adjusts to the redcedar removal. There can easily be a short-term increase in erosion as open ground is suddenly exposed to direct rainfall. Also, expect a surprising surge in growth in some vegetation once more sunlight is available. This might or might not be a good thing depending on your goals, just be ready for it and plan accordingly.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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