The Bermuda Cedar (Juniperus bermudiana) is our most famous endemic tree, its closest partner being the Bermuda Palmetto. These two trees together made up most of the forest of Bermuda before settlement in 1609. The provided the habitat for a myriad of endemic and native animals, and, according to Dr. David Wingate, are essential for keeping Bermuda’s biodiversity maintained.
The Bermuda Cedar Scale epidemic which occurred between 1946 and 1953 decimated Bermuda’s cedar population – eradicating about 95% of the trees. Since the cedar was the most prominent tree on island, its demise caused an ecological disaster. Ladybirds were brought to Bermuda in the hopes that they would control the population of scale insects infecting the trees. Even today the ghostly silver carcasses of dead cedar trees can be seen, needle-less, stretching towards the sky.
In the absence of Bermuda cedars, the casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia) was introduced in an attempt to protect the island’s coastline from exposure, particularly bombardment from waves. Unfortunately, the tree is invasive; in fact, its needles are slightly acidic, and as they drop off the tree, they make the soil beneath them acidic in turn, preventing other plants from growing.
What’s striking in the springtime is the way in which the Bermuda cedar reproduces. Most plants reproduce sexually – by fertilizing an egg via the transfer of pollen from a male anther to the female stigma. This egg will then grow in to a fruit with seeds in its core. Most plants that reproduce sexually in this manner are equipped with both male (stamen) and female (carpel) parts on one flower. Though one flower is able to fertilize itself, this is still classified as sexual reproduction.
However, certain species have different male and female plants altogether, and the Bermuda cedar is one of these. One tree is female, containing the carpel; the ovary, stigma and style, and another is male, containing the stamen; the pollen dusted anther and filament. At this time of year, the male plants can be seen to be yellow-tipped. The scaly needles of the tree are in fact producing pollen, and after pollen release, the tips turn brown. In female plants, small grayish-blue berries grow eight months after pollination. As cedar trees have no visible flowers, they rely on wind pollination.
For more information on the Bermuda cedar, visit this page.