Rocky Mountain juniper

Juniperus scopulorum
Rocky Mountain juniper Rocky Mountain juniper

A shrubby tree with a wide, irregularly rounded crown and knotty, twisted trunk reaching 13 metres in height.

Rocky Mountain juniper leaves

Scale-like, in pairs, barely overlapping but covering the twig in four rows. On young, faster growing branches the leaves may be longer and more needle-like, scattered in twos or threes; pale yellowish-green, turning to greyish-green on older twigs.
Rocky Mountain juniper bark Cones
Seed cones are rounded, small, and fleshy, located at the ends of the branches; bright to dark blue with a greyish tinge.

Divided into narrow, flat ridges that are broken into thin, shredded, stringy strips; reddish- or greyish-brown.

Where to find Rocky Mountain juniper
It occurs most commonly on dry rocky or sandy soils, especially in moist rocky canyon bottoms, along lake and stream shores, and on dry, rocky, south-facing ridges. It generally occurs throughout southern British Columbia, although it has been seen growing as far north as Telegraph Creek.

Rocky Mountain juniper often occurs in pure open groups of trees, but it can occur mixed with ponderosa pine on south- and west-facing slopes, or with Douglas-fir on north- and east-facing slopes.

Where to find Rocky Mountain juniper
Rocky Mountain juniper berries Uses
Aboriginal people used the wood of Rocky Mountain juniper for making bows, clubs, and spoons. Because it is durable and has an attractive colour, it is now used for carving.

Many First Nations peoples boiled Rocky Mountain juniper boughs and used them as a disinfectant and air freshener. They also used the boughs in sweat houses and for smoking hides. They ate fresh Rocky Mountain juniper berries in small quantities or made them into a tea for many stomach ailments.Caution

Berries from certain species of juniper are used to flavour gin. Gin was first made in Holland in the 17th century as an invigorating and medicinal alcohol.
Young branches of Rocky Mountain juniper can sometimes be confused with common juniper (Juniperus communis), which only has needle-like leaves and always grows as a shrub.

The cones ripen in their second season, so two generations of cones may occur on the same tree. The fleshy covering of the cones is dissolved to allow the seeds to germinate. This is usually accomplished as the cones pass through the digestive tracts of birds or other animals.

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