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Running cedar

Running cedar, as far as I know, has no legal protection, and that’s a shame. It’s not nearly as common as it used to be. I see it often while walking in the woods, but never in the large patches that I often saw as a child in the Carolina woodlands. Its ideal habitat is on the ridges of coniferous Appalachian forests. It likes acid soil and dappled sunlight.

The Virginia Native Plant Society asks people to leave it alone and writes, “Over-collecting and habitat destruction have increased the rarity of the plant, a slow grower.”

It’s scientific name is Diphasiastrum digitatum. When I was a young’un, people used to pull it up to make Christmas wreaths. I hope that’s not done anymore, not least because running cedar is said to be highly flammable. Another form of winter greenery, mistletoe, sometimes grows at the tops of oak trees in these woodlands. It, too, is not as common as it used to be. The Druids, it is said, would climb an oak and cut mistletoe with a golden knife, on the sixth day of the new moon closest to the winter solstice. I’m embarrassed to say that, when I was a boy, we shot it out of trees with .22 rifles.

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