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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3 Responses to Utah Juniper

  1. tonytomeo says:

    This one really is fascinating, perhaps because I will not likely ever see it. There are only two North American junipers here, and the ‘common’ juniper, Juniperus communis, (which is not really common in horticulture) happens to be a cultivar that is very different from how it would be observed in the wild. The other is Easter red cedar, Juniperus virginiani, that I found in Oklahoma. I have seen a few junipers in the wild between here and Oklahoma and Oregon, but never bothered to identify them. I know seeds of some can be purchased online, but growing them in the garden is not quite the same as seeing them in their own home.

  2. bluebrightly says:

    I was happy to see this – I love desert junipers, especially when they get really old. When I moved to Fidalgo Island in the Pacific Northwest I learned that we have an unusual juniper here, J. maritima. It was only recently made a species. It’s similar in many respects to the Utah juniper and Rocky Mountain juniper but there are a few differences. It has a very limited range. One of these days I’ll do a post about it – I’ve accumulated hundreds of photos. 🙂

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