Sierra Juniper

Juniperus occidentalis subsp. australis, below Lake Aloha, Tahoe Rim Trail, California-Nevada border.
Attribution: Brewbooks at Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juniperus_occidentalis_australis_Tahoe1.jpg

Latin (group) name: Juniperus
Latin (specific) name: Juniperus Occidentalis (Hooker)
Average max height: 40' to 80'
Average diameter: 16" to 40"
Associated state: none
Category: American Woods
The Softwoods - Conifers

The Tree

The Sierra Juniper, long known as Western Juniper, or merely Juniper, is, when not suppressed by environment, bent or twisted on rocks and steep mountain sides, a sturdy grizzly of the high altitudes ranging in size from 40 to 80 feet high with a trunk diameter of from 16 to 40 inches. It is a slow-growing, long-lived tree. The crown is open and well-rounded but the limbs may extend almost to the ground. The trunk is chunky with straight grooves and ridges, is sometimes twisted and bent, has long strong roots, and frequently divides into huge upright limbs a few feet from the base. The bark, which is firm and stringy, is about one-half to one and one-half inches thick, and a clear light-cinnamon-brown in color. The evergreen leaves, a pale ashy-green color, are short, scale-like, cling closely to the still twigs, and overlap one another in groups of three. On the younger trees the leaves are stiff and sharp. The leaf is peculiar in that on the back of each is a glandular pit filled with a whitish resin which, when crushed, gives off an aromatic pungent odor. The leaf juice is sometimes used for medicinal purposes. The “berries” which are blue-black in color covered with a whitish bloom, have a tough skin and are slightly more than one-quarter inch in diameter. They mature the second year. Indians and birds relish these berries which are sweetish and have a pungently aromatic odor.

juniper tree bark
Sierra Juniper Tree Bark
juniper berries
Sierra Juniper Berries

Common Names in Use

  • Sierra Juniper (Calif.)
  • Cedar (Idaho)
  • Juniper (Oreg., Calif., Idaho)
  • Western Cedar (Idaho)
  • Western Juniper (Calif., lit.)
  • Western Red Cedar
  • Yellow Cedar (Mont.)

Growth Range

The growth range of Sierra Juniper extends from southern Washington and Idaho southward through Oregon and California. The tree favors exposed slopes, canyon sides and the rocky soils of mountain regions in the higher elevations, widely distributed from 2,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level.

The Wood

Like other Junipers, the wood is fine grained, aromatic, soft, brittle and splits easily. The heartwood is a pale brown or tan tinged with purplish red, and the sapwood is very thin and nearly white. It works very well with tools and takes a fine finish. Juniper wood closely resembles cedar but is finer grained. It has very attractive coloring, and is enhanced by the many solid knots which occur.

juniper cross section
Western Juniper by Hough
juniper box
Juniper Jewelry Box


Because of its short, stocky trunk not a great deal of usable lumber may be cut from it. However, it is comparable with other junipers and cedars for lead pencil stock, and is used for posts and fuel. The wood would make excellent material for wooden novelties because of its grain, color, workability and finishing qualities.

File References

  ID T Name Size Last modified Actions
384 Juniperus Occidentalis (Hooker)
Juniperus occidentalis subsp. australis, below Lake Aloha, Tahoe Rim Trail, California-Nevada border.
Attribution: Brewbooks at Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juniperus_occidentalis_australis_Tahoe1.jpg
486.99 KB 02-16-2019
382 Sierra Juniper Tree Bark
Juniperus occidentalis var. australis, eastern Sierra Nevada, Rock Creek Canyon, California.
Attribution: Wilson44691 [Public domain]
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JuniperBark.JPG
220.34 KB 02-15-2019
385 Sierra Juniper Berries
Common juniper var. depressa berries (Juniperus communis var. depressa), Unorganized Algoma (Kincaid Twp.), Ontario
Attribution: Fungus Guy [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Common_juniper_berries_(Mica_B).JPG
146.89 KB 02-16-2019
386 168. Juniperus Occidentialis, Hook.
Plate No. 168 Juniperus Occidentialis cross section plate.
Reference: An Index to “The American Woods” by Romeyn B. Hough. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/specialcollections/forestry/hough/toc.html. Accessed 17 Feb. 2019.
277.45 KB 02-16-2019
387 Juniper Jewelry Box
Western Juniper jewelry box by unknown maker.
Reference: Forestry, Oregon Department of. Juniper Jewelry Box. 15 Dec. 2014. Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/oregondepartmentofforestry/17259000831/.
412.97 KB 02-16-2019
381 Sierra Juniper Range Map
Range map of Juniperus occidentalis
Dark green: Juniperus occidentalis subsp. occidentalis
Light green: Juniperus occidentalis subsp. australis
Attribution: By U.S. Geological Survey - Digital representation of "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22087760
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juniperus_occidentalis_range_map.jpg
127.15 KB 02-15-2019


  • Shelley E. Schoonover (American Woods) 1951 (Watling & Co. ) Santa Monica, CA 

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Page last modified on Sunday July 24, 2022 17:46:39 PDT by admin.