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Juniperus osteosperma (Utah juniper)
Cressler, Alan

Juniperus osteosperma

Juniperus osteosperma (Torr.) Little

Utah Juniper

Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Synonym(s): Juniperus californica ssp. osteosperma, Juniperus californica var. osteosperma, Juniperus californica var. utahensis, Juniperus knightii, Juniperus megalocarpa, Juniperus monosperma var. knightii, Juniperus occidentalis var. utahensis, Juniperus utahensis, Juniperus utahensis var. megalocarpa, Sabina osteosperma, Sabina utahensis


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Utah Juniper is a tree-like, evergreen shrub or bushy, small tree, usually 10-20 ft. tall. The plant forms rounded clumps or crowns. Branchlets are stiff with thin, ashy, scaly bark. Foliage is scale-like on mature twigs; needle-like on juvenile shoots and seedlings. Fruit is red-brown beneath a bloom when mature.

The most common juniper in Arizona, it is conspicuous at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and on higher canyon walls. Utah Juniper grows slowly, becoming craggier and more contorted with age. American Indians used the bark for cordage, sandals, woven bags, thatching, and matting. They also ate the "berries" fresh or in cakes. Birds and small mammals also consume quantities of juniper "berries". Junipers are also called cedars; Cedar Breaks National Monument and nearby Cedar City in southwestern Utah are named for this tree. Scattered tufts of yellowish twigs with whitish berries found on the trees are a parasitic mistletoe, which is characteristic of this tree.


From the Image Gallery

39 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 40 feet tall, often much shorter.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Though technically incorrect, the seed cones are often referred to as berries.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr


USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NM , NV , UT , WY
Native Distribution: S. ID, s. MT & WY, s. to w. NM & CA
Native Habitat: Dry plains & hills, 3000-7500 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Rocky soils.


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. Seed can be extracted by running the fruits through a macerator. 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

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

From the National Organizations Directory

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

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

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


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

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