Krummholz-type Western Juniper

Juniperus occidentalis is a native tree found in Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. Two subspecies occur: the one growing in SE Washington, NE California, NW Nevada and Eastern and Central Oregon is generally called the western juniper. The other subspecies, called the Sierra juniper, inhabits the Sierras. However, the names are commonly used interchangeably.

I found this western juniper (along with several others) in the Lava Cast Forest near Bend OR – a rocky lava flow with a cold, harsh environment.  I believe it is a krummholz-type tree. Krummholz growth occurs where trees grow on dry, rocky sites in exposed positions, particularly at high altitudes. Constant fierce, freezing high winds cause the tree to grow stunted with gnarled branches and a low, spreading profile.

Junipers, with their bluish berry-like cones, have overlapping scaly leaves when mature. In young western juniper trees the leaves are awl-like. Although this juniper may grow larger, already it displays a krummholz form.


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