Juniperus deppeana

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Juniperus deppeana
Juniperus deppeana USDA.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
(unranked): Gymnosperms
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Juniperus
J. deppeana
Binomial name
Juniperus deppeana
Juniperus deppeana varieties range map 2.png
Natural range of Juniperus deppeana

Juniperus deppeana (alligator juniper or checkerbark juniper; Native American[clarification needed] names include táscate and tláscal) is a small to medium-sized tree reaching 10–15 metres (33–49 feet), rarely 25 m, in height. It is native to central and northern Mexico (from Oaxaca northward) and the southwestern United States (Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas). It grows at moderate altitudes of 750–2,700 m (2,460–8,860 ft) on dry soils.

The distinct alligator skin-like bark
Detail of the alligator-like bark as seen in the Magdalena Mountains of New Mexico

The bark is usually very distinctive, unlike other junipers, hard, dark gray-brown, cracked into small square plates superficially resembling alligator skin; it is however sometimes like other junipers, with stringy vertical fissuring. The shoots are 1–1.5 millimetres in diameter; the leaves are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or whorls of three; the adult leaves are scale-like, 1-2.5 mm long (to 5 mm on lead shoots) and 1–1.5 mm broad. The juvenile leaves (on young seedlings only) are needle-like, 5–10 mm long. The cones are berry-like, 7–15 mm in diameter, green maturing orange-brown with a whitish waxy bloom, and contain 2–6 seeds; they are mature in about 18 months, and are eaten by birds and mammals.[2] The male cones are 4–6 mm long, and shed their pollen in spring. It is largely dioecious, producing cones of only one sex on each tree, but occasional trees are monoecious.

There are five varieties, not accepted as distinct by all authorities:

  • Juniperus deppeana var. deppeana. Throughout the range of the species. Foliage dull gray-green with a transparent or yellowish resin spot on each leaf; cones 7–12 mm diameter.
  • Juniperus deppeana var. pachyphlaea (syn. J. pachyphlaea). Arizona, New Mexico, northernmost Mexico. Foliage strongly glaucous with a white resin spot on each leaf; cones 7–12 mm diameter.
  • Juniperus deppeana var. robusta (syn. J. deppeana var. patoniana). Northwestern Mexico. Cones larger, 10–15 mm diameter.
  • Juniperus deppeana var. sperryi. Western Texas, very rare. Bark furrowed, not square-cracked, branchlets pendulous; possibly a hybrid with Juniperus flaccida.
  • Juniperus deppeana var. zacatecensis. Zacatecas. Cones large, 10–15 mm diameter.


The berrylike cones are eaten by birds and mammals.[3] Berries from alligator juniper growing in the Davis Mountains of West Texas are used to flavor "Wild Bark West Texas Dry Gin" produced by WildGins Co. in Austin, Texas.[4]


  1. ^ Farjon, A. (2013). "Juniperus deppeana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T42231A2964728. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T42231A2964728.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ Little, Elbert L. (1994) [1980]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Western Region (Chanticleer Press ed.). Knopf. p. 313. ISBN 0394507614.
  3. ^ Whitney, Stephen (1985). Western Forests (The Audubon Society Nature Guides). New York: Knopf. p. 370. ISBN 0-394-73127-1.
  4. ^ "The Texas Eight: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Drink 'Em". Retrieved 2021-04-15.

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