Juniperus osteosperma

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Juniperus osteosperma
Juniperus osteosperma 1.jpg
A Utah juniper showing distinctive shape and leaves
Scientific classification
J. osteosperma
Binomial name
Juniperus osteosperma
(Torr.) Little, 1948
Juniperus osteosperma range map.jpg
Natural range

Juniperus osteosperma (Utah juniper; syn. J. utahensis) is a shrub or small tree reaching 3–6 m (rarely to 9 m) tall. It is native to the southwestern United States, in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, western New Mexico, western Colorado, Wyoming, southern Montana, southern Idaho and eastern California. It grows at moderate altitudes of 1,300–2,600 metres (4,300–8,500 ft), on dry soils, often together with Pinus monophylla.

Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) leaves, female cones and male cones, and (center) galls

The shoots are fairly thick compared to most junipers, 1.5–2 mm diameter. The leaves are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or whorls of three; the adult leaves are scale-like, 1–2 mm long (to 5 mm on lead shoots) and 1–1.5 millimetres (0.039–0.059 in) broad. The juvenile leaves (on young seedlings only) are needle-like, 5–10 mm long. The cones are berry-like, 8–13 millimetres (0.31–0.51 in) in diameter, blue-brown with a whitish waxy bloom, and contain a single seed (rarely two); they mature in about 18 months and are eaten by birds and small mammals.[2] The male cones are 2–4 millimetres (0.079–0.157 in) long, and shed their pollen in early spring. It is largely monoecious with both sexes on the same plant, but around 10% of plants are dioecious, producing cones of only one sex.

Utah Juniper galls

The plants frequently bear numerous galls caused by the Juniper Tip Midge Oligotrophus betheli (Bibionomorpha: Cecidomyiidae); these are conspicuous pale violet-purple, produced in clusters of 5–20 together, each gall 1–2 centimetres (0.39–0.79 in) diameter, with dense modified spreading scale-leaves 6–10 millimetres (0.24–0.39 in) long and 2–3 millimetres (0.079–0.118 in) broad at the base.

Seeds are dispersed by a variety of mammals and birds. Mammals include jackrabbits (mostly the black-tailed jackrabbit Lepus californicus spp.) rodents and to a lesser extent by coyotes (Canis latrans).[3] Most notable among the birds that disperse juniper berries is the Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi).[4]

Juniperus osteosperma seedling along I-80 in northeastern Nevada

Native Americans used the bark for a variety of purposes, and ate the cones both fresh and in cakes.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Farjon, A. (2013). "Juniperus osteosperma". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2013: e.T42241A2965708. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T42241A2965708.en. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  2. ^ Little, Elbert L. (1994) [1980]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Western Region (Chanticleer Press ed.). Knopf. p. 317. ISBN 0394507614.
  3. ^ Chambers, Jeanne C.; Vander Wall, Stephen B.; Schupp, Eugene W. (January 1999). "Seed and seedling ecology of piñon and juniper species in the pygmy woodlands of western North America". The Botanical Review. 65 (1): 1–38. doi:10.1007/bf02856556. ISSN 0006-8101.
  4. ^ Poddar, Saradell; Lederer, Roger J. (July 1982). "Juniper Berries as an Exclusive Winter Forage for Townsend's Solitaires". American Midland Naturalist. 108 (1): 34. doi:10.2307/2425289. ISSN 0003-0031.
  5. ^ Whitney, Stephen (1985). Western Forests (The Audubon Society Nature Guides). New York: Knopf. p. 371. ISBN 0-394-73127-1.

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