Rocky Mountain Juniper - Juniperus scopulorum
Family Cupressaceae – Redwood, Cypress, Juniper, Arborvitae
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Rocky Mountain juniper is a long-lived species that can reach 3,000 + years
Rocky Mountain Juniper
Rocky Mountain juniper is 27 years old [2]
Rocky Mountain juniper is a perennial, evergreen gymnosperm native to North America. The species grows as a shrub or tree to 30 feet (10 m) or more and has thin, fibrous bark that usually shreds with age. In the open, trees are stubby and broadly pyramidal with branches to ground level. In shaded areas, the trunk is less tapered and foliage arranges in "weeping sprays". Leaves are scalelike and 0.03-0.11 inch (1-3 mm) long or needlelike and 0.11-0.47 inch (3-12 mm) long.

RM juniper prefers calcareous and somewhat alkaline soils and grows best on moist, deep soils. It survives extremes of temperature well. Rocky Mountain juniper is considered hardy except for "burning" of foliage on trees exposed to northwest winds during winter in the northern Great Plains. It can tolerate shade when young, but becomes intolerant later in life. It is more drought tolerant than eastern redcedar and less so than other tree junipers in the west. In fact, during the 1930s drought, Rocky Mountain juniper woodland maintained and expanded range in the western Dakotas.

RM juniper occurs throughout the drier mountains and foothills of British Columbia and Alberta; south through the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains to Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas; and north across eastern Colorado, western Nebraska and North Dakota, Montana, and into Saskatchewan. It is also found on Vancouver and other Puget Sound islands [1].

Rocky Mountain Juniper - Juniperus scopulorum
A 36-foot tall, 6.5-foot diameter specimen near Logan, Utah was estimated at 3,000 years old. (1)
Rocky Mountain juniper is most abundant in dry, clay, rocky, or sandy slopes, canyons and wash areas as well as prairie hillsides, fields, pastures, and woodlands. The species grows best along ravines, in canyon bottoms, and on moist, cool hillsides. It is found on exposed bluffs, rocky points, and southern exposures throughout its range and is common on northern exposures in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Rocky Mountain juniper is important forage and cover to many wildlife species. Waxwings are the principal consumers of  juniper cones ("berries"), but numerous other birds and mammals include the berries in their diets. Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), bitterbrush (Purshia spp.), and RM juniper combined have been reported to make up 66% of winter mule deer browse  [1].
juniper bark
Rocky Mountain juniper's close-grained, durable, aromatic wood is used for furniture, interior paneling, fence posts, fuel, and novelties such as chests. It is especially well-suited for fencing because the wood lasts a long time in contact with the ground. The wood is not used regularly for other products due to its small size and knotty, twisted trunks. Northern Plains tribes preferred Rocky Mountain juniper branches for making bow staves.

Native Americans have used Rocky Mountain juniper seeds, "berries", and foliage for incense, teas, or salves to treat a variety of ailments including respiratory problems, backaches, vomiting and diarrhea, dandruff, high fever, arthritis and muscular aches, kidney and urinary ailments, and heart and circulatory problems. It has also been used to facilitate childbirth. Juniper berries are also used in gin making [1].
1. Scher, Janette S. 2002. Juniperus scopulorum. In: Fire Effects Information System, USDA Forest Service
2. Rocky Mountain juniper, Morton Arboretum acc. 935-80-1, photos © Bruce Marlin
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Family Cupressaceae – Redwood, Cypress, Juniper, Arborvitae
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