The term wolf, when used to describe a tree, refers to expansive horizontal top growth that spreads in all directions to gobble up as much living space as possible. A single Wolf tree can occupy enough space to accommodate a dozen or more typical vertical growing individuals. Eastern Red Cedar genetics usually doesn’t allow the development of Wolf trees, so I was surprised to find this specimen.
The Wolf Cedar has developed horizontal branches that extend far to all sides. A more typical growth pattern is demonstrated by the tree on the right. Their trunks are almost identically sized, so they are probably both about the same age.
Branches near ground level would have begun their horizontal journey when the tree was quite small. They should have slowed their growth rate long ago and by now should be dead.
There are plenty of side branches that behaved normally. They are short, dead branches with a slightly upward curve.
The unusually long side branches of the Wolf Cedar are still growing. This branch leaves the tree only a couple of feet off the ground, makes its way far from the trunk and then curves upward to be topped by normal cedar growth.
The odd pattern of growth continues on up the tree. Deciduous trees exhibit this wolfing behavior when they are grown in the open without competing neighbors. They are able to adjust their growth habits to fit the existing conditions. Shape of Eastern Red Cedars is dependent on the genetic makeup of the individual tree. The two basic shapes are column or cone and genetics dictates which form the tree will take. The growth pattern is not affected by the amount of neighboring competition. Compared to its relatives at Blue Jay Barrens, this is one odd tree.