Characteristics of Rocky Mountain Juniper Tree (Juniperus scopulorum) in the Wild

Juniperus scopulorum
Rocky Mountain Juniper is a species of juniper tree native to western North America. The tree grows at an altitude of between 500-2,700 meters on dry soil, often alongside other juniper species.

Its isolated population occurs near sea level in the Puget Sound area in Washington Park near Anacortes and southwest British Columbia in a park called Smugglers Cove. At both locations, there are large numbers of specimens of old and young Rocky Mountain Juniper.

Recently a new species of juniper that is genetically different has been discovered, and it has been described as a new species of Juniperus maritima. It is a cryptic rock species and is almost indistinguishable morphologically from Juniperus scopulorum, although it differs in phenology.

The smoke from the burning Rocky Mountain Juniper wood is used to ward off evil spirits before performing ceremonies, such as healing ceremonies by Native Americans.

Some Highland Indians made use of this tree by boiling the leaves and inner bark to treat coughs and fevers. The fruit is also sometimes boiled to make a drink which is used as a laxative and treats colds.


Characteristics of Rocky Mountain Juniper Leaf

Juniperus scopulorum Leaf
Source : Zharkikh

The leaves are paired, opposite, or sometimes in triple whorls, and the mature leaves are scales 1-3 mm long (5 mm at the shoot) and 1-1.5 mm wide. Its juvenile leaves are found only on young trees, shaped like needles with a length of 5-10 mm.


Characteristics of Rocky Mountain Juniper Fruit

Juniperus scopulorum Fruit
Source :

The fruit is a berry, bullae, 6-9 mm in diameter, dark blue with white wax. Each fruit contains two seeds (rarely one or three), the fruit ripens in about 18 months and is often eaten by wildlife.

Rocky Mountain Juniper is a dioecious tree, which produces fruit in one sex on each tree.


Characteristics of Rocky Mountain Juniper Tree

Juniperus scopulorum Tree
Source :

The Rocky Mountain Juniper tree grows as a small tree between 5-15 meters (rarely up to 20 meters) in height, with a trunk up to 1 meter in diameter.

The natural habitat of the Rocky Mountain Juniper tree is in western North America. From British Columbia along the Rocky Mountains to Chihuahua and Coahuila in Mexico.

This tree thrives at an altitude from 500 to 2,700 meters, especially on dry, rocky land on the slopes of the mountains that are exposed to the bright sun all day long.

Bonsai artists around the world value and often use this tree as a bonsai subject because it has high survival and adaptability.


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