Utah Juniper

Utah junipers (Juniperus osteosperma) are short, single-stemmed (usually), erect trees with large, rough branches and a full, rounded crown. They are found in montane coniferous woodlands and forests throughout the Great Basin. Their habitat is dry, rocky, shallow soils between about 3,200 and 8,400 feet.

Tolerant of drought and intolerant of fire, Utah junipers are long-lived. Some can grow to over 1,000 years of age. Although most Utah junipers are heavily infected by mistletoe, these trees do not appear to be overly damaged by this parasite.

The bark is thin, fibrous and greyish-brown. Divided by deep furrows into thin, fibrous ridges, the ash grey bark ages or weathers into a whitish color.

Utah juniper leaves are scale-like and yellowish green in color. Most are opposite or sometimes in threes. These scales lack pits and resinous glands. Juvenile leaves are more awl-like.

Utah juniper fruits are cones (often called berries) that mature in about eighteen months. Spherical and berrylike, the cones are reddish brown beneath a whitish bloom.

Utah juniper currently has few uses except firewood. Previously this tree was made into fence posts, mine timbers and charcoal. Many birds and mammals eat Utah juniper foliage and berries. Small desert rodents find the berries particularly palatable.

Desert cedar is another colloquial name for J osteosperma.

These Utah juniper specimens were growing along Nevada Highway 844 between Gabbs and Berlin Site.

 

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