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Juniperus deppeana (Alligator juniper)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Juniperus deppeana

Juniperus deppeana Steud.

Alligator Juniper, Checkerbark Juniper, Western Juniper, Oakbark Cedar, Thickbark Cedar, Mountain Cedar, Tascate, Tacate, Tlascal

Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Synonym(s): Juniperus deppeana ssp. sperryi, Juniperus deppeana var. pachyphlaea, Juniperus deppeana var. sperryi, Juniperus mexicana, Juniperus pachyderma

USDA Symbol: JUDE2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Alligator Juniper forms a broadly-pyramidal or round-topped crown. The distinctive bark is furrowed into checkered plates. Fragrant, dark blue-green, scale-like foliage and copper-colored fruit are other landscape characteristics. This evergreen grows to 50 ft. in height.

Alligator Juniper is easily recognized by its distinctive bark. One of the largest junipers, it is used for fuel and fenceposts. New sprouts often appear at the base of cut stumps. The large "berries" are consumed by birds and mammals. Large trees often have a partially dead crown of grotesque appearance with some branches that die and turn light gray instead of falling; other branches die only in a vertical strip and continue to grow on the other side.


From the Image Gallery

11 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Usually up to about 50 feet tall. Rarely up to about 90 feet tall.
Fruit: Though technically incorrect, the seed cones are often referred to as berries.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Brown
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar
Bloom Notes: Flowers inconspicuous. Pollen cones cream to brownish.


Native Distribution: Mts. of w. TX, NM, AZ, and Mexico as far south as Oaxaca
Native Habitat: Open, rocky hills & slopes; shrub oak areas in mts.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky, well-drained soils. Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Rocky
Conditions Comments: Very adaptable. Often associated with scrub oak. Invades disturbed sites.


Use Ornamental: Fast growing, Attractive
Use Wildlife: Nesting site, Cover, Browse, Seeds-Small mammals, Seeds-granivorous birds
Attracts: Birds


Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Seed can be sown outdoors in fall or stratified and sown in spring. Seed germination is often poor, so a large quantity of seeds should be sown.
Seed Collection: Collect seeds from late summer through fall when it has turned its ripe color. Thoroughly dry and clean seeds to avoid mold and overheating. If not planting immediately, air dry before storing. Store in sealed containers at 20-40 degrees.
Seed Treatment: Stratify at 41 degrees for 30-120 days.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX


Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Juniperus deppeana in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Juniperus deppeana in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Juniperus deppeana


Record Modified: 2023-03-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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