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Juniperus scopulorum is often confused with:
Juniperus virginiana Juniperus virginiana
Native alternative(s) for Juniperus scopulorum:
Juniperus virginiana Juniperus virginiana
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Salvia rosmarinus Rosmarinus officinalis
Ulmus alata Ulmus alata
Picea sitchensis

Juniperus scopulorum

Previously known as:

  • Juniperus scopulorum var. columnaris
  • Juniperus virginiana ssp. scopulorum
  • Juniperus virginiana var. montana
  • Juniperus virginiana var. scopulorum
  • Sabina scopulorum
Phonetic Spelling
ju-NIP-er-us skop-u-LO-rum
Description

Rocky Mountain Juniper is a native slow-growing, conifer, evergreen needled tree in the Cupressaceae or cypress family.  It is narrow, pyramidal to rounded in form and grows 30-40 feet tall. It has shedding reddish-brown bark and has bluish-silvery to dark green scale-like foliage that lies flat against the branches. The seed cones are waxy blue, and berry-like which are a source of food for birds and small mammals.

Rocky Mountain juniper is one of thirteen junipers that are native to North America. It is found in the western United States and Canada. The tree can be found in drier mountains and foothills of British Columbia and Alberta, the Rocky Mountains to Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas. It is also found in mixed or pure stands of open woodland areas in Wyoming and Colorado at elevations of up to 7500 feet, often on dry and rocky ridges.

The genus name, Juniperus, is derived from the Latin word for juniper. The epithet, scopulorum, is from the Latin word that translates "of the cliffs or rock' and refers to the species mountainous habitat.

The Rocky Mountain Juniper prefers full sun, moist, well-drained soils and especially does well in dry, sandy soil. It is drought, salt spray, erosion, dry soil, and air pollution tolerant. The tree will adapt to various soil types that may be on the dry side.

It cannot tolerate wet soils, high humidity, nor high night temperatures. They are also intolerant to ice. The Rocky Mountain Juniper is very susceptible to injury or death from fires due to it thin, stringy bark and the volatile oils contained in the branches.

It is possible the Rocky Mountain Juniper could be attempted in the mountains of North Carolina. It may be best to consider the closely related to the Eastern Red Cedar for use in the landscape, which is better able to handle the hot, humid weather of North Carolina. 

Seasons of Interest:

Foliage: Year-round            Fruits: Fall and Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • bark is reddish-brown or gray, exfoliates in thin strips.
  • small branchlets are smooth, but larger branchlets exfoliate in plates.
  • adult foliage is opposite, simple scale-like and varies in color from bluish-silvery or light to dark green
  • juvenile foliage is more needle-like
  • male and female flowers on separate plants, female flowers are greenish-yellow and have two ovules, male flowers are yellow with six stamens and appear on short branchlets.  
  • the fruit is a round, immature berry is green and glaucous, ripens to a bluish-purple with a white, waxy bloom. 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Rocky Mountain Juniper has no serious diseases or insect pests. In rainy or wet springs, they may be susceptible to blights which causes the dieback of the stem tips. Phomopsis twig blight may occur as well as Cedar-apple rust and other rust diseases. In poorly drained soils, root rot can occur. Aphids, bagworms, twig borers, webworms, scale, and spider mites are potential insect pests. In the wild, animals just the tree as a rubbing post and causes damage to the stems and roots. 

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

 

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See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Blue Arrow', 'Blue Creeper', 'Blue Heaven", 'Cologreen', 'Gray Gleam', 'Pathfinder', 'Snow Flurries', 'Table Top', 'Wichita Blue'
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#slow growing#pyramidal#blue green needles#low maintenance#air pollution tolerant#columnar#food source wildlife#salt spray tolerant#needled evergreen#deer resistant#dioecious#rounded#showy cones#screening#nesting sites#exfoliating bark#dry soils tolerant#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Blue Arrow', 'Blue Creeper', 'Blue Heaven", 'Cologreen', 'Gray Gleam', 'Pathfinder', 'Snow Flurries', 'Table Top', 'Wichita Blue'
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#slow growing#pyramidal#blue green needles#low maintenance#air pollution tolerant#columnar#food source wildlife#salt spray tolerant#needled evergreen#deer resistant#dioecious#rounded#showy cones#screening#nesting sites#exfoliating bark#dry soils tolerant#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Juniperus
    Species:
    scopulorum
    Family:
    Cupressaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The aromatic wood is used for cedar chests and for lumber, fence posts, and fuel. Native Americans used the juniper berries for food and decorations. The bark was woven to make cradles. It was also used for firewood for heating and cooking. When the wood is cured, it is resistant to decay.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Western Canada, western USA to Northern Mexico
    Distribution:
    Native: Canada--British Columbia and Alberta, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, and the United States--CO, ID, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OR, SD, UT, WA, and WY.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds eat the cones. It provides nesting sites and cover. Host plant to the olive butterfly. Deer resistant.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Erect
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Blue
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a round, two-lobed, 0.2 to 0.3 inches in diameter, dark blue, heavily glaucous, and a berry-like cone. The immature berry is green and glaucous. It ripens to a bluish-purple with a white, waxy bloom. The seed cone is resinous to fibrous and contains 1 to 3 brownish seeds that are 4-5 mm in diameter. They ripen the second year from mid-September to mid-December. They remain on the tree until the following spring. The seeds are dispersed mainly by birds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    The tree is dioecious or produces male and female flowers on separate plants. Both male and female flowers are present from mid-April to mid-June. The female flowers are greenish-yellow and have two ovules. They open in the following spring before pollination. The male flowers are yellow with six stamens and appear on short branchlets. The pollen is dispersed by the wind. The female flowers have 3 to 8 pointed scales that become fleshy and fuse to form a small strobili or berry.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Insignificant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Adult foliage is opposite, scale-like and varies in color from bluish-silvery or light to dark green. They usually have an inconspicuous gland on the surface of the leaf. The leaves are appressed or spreading and measure 1 to 3 mm long. The juvenile foliage is more needle-like, measures 5 to 7 mm long, and pointed with white coated needles. The foliage has a musty scent.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Bark Description:
    The bark is reddish-brown or gray and sheds or exfoliates in thin strips.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The small branchlets are smooth, but larger branchlets exfoliate in plates.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Design Feature:
    Screen/Privacy
    Small Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Pollution
    Salt