Juniper trees and shrubs are in the genus Juniperus in the cypress (Cupressaceae) family. These evergreen conifers feature leaves that can either be like needles or scales, and most of the species change from needle form to scale form as they mature. Most junipers offer at least some level of drought resistance.
Many of the common names include the word cedar, though true cedars belong to the genus Cedrus.
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The alligator juniper is named for its distinctive bark that resembles the rough, checkered skin of an alligator. This species can either be a shrub or tree depending on the growing location and conditions.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus deppeana. Synonyms are Juniperus mexicana and Juniperus pachyphloea.
- Other Common Names: Checkerbark juniper, oak-barked juniper, thick-barked juniper, western juniper, mountain cedar
- Native Area: Mexico and the Southwestern United States
- USDA Zones: 7 to 9
- Height: Can grow up to 60 feet tall; generally 20 to 40 feet tall
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This juniper is usually found as a large shrub in the Southwest, though it can sometimes grow to be a medium-sized tree in the wild. It features scale-like leaves and reddish-brown cones.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus californica. Some also use Juniperus cedrosiana, Sabina californica, Juniperus pyriformis or Juniperus cerrosianus
- Other Common Names: Desert white cedar
- Native Area: California, Baja California, Nevada, Arizona
- USDA Zones: 8 to 10
- Height: 10 to 15 feet tall; sometimes can be 35 feet or more
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One variety of the Chinese juniper ("Toruloso") is known as the Hollywood juniper. As it matures it creates an intriguing twisted form that works well as a specimen plant. There are many other varieties composed of different shapes and colors.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus chinensis
- Native Area: Japan and China
- USDA Zones: 4 to 9
- Height: Size varies greatly depending on the variety; many are groundcovers and shrubs
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As the name suggests, this juniper shrub is commonly found throughout much of the world. It grows well in both alkaline and acidic soils, as well as adapting to many locations such as windy sites.
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- Botanical Name: Juniperus communis
- Other Common Names: Dwarf juniper, prostrate juniper, mountain common juniper, old field common juniper, ground juniper, creeping juniper, carpet juniper
- Native Area: North America, Europe, northern Asia, Japan
- USDA Zones: 3 to 8
- Height: The shrub usually matures to around 15 feet tall; it can sometimes reach 30 feet tall
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Creeping juniper lives up to its name and works well as a groundcover. It is very adaptable and can handle many different soils and situations.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus horizontalis
- Other Common Names: Creeping cedar, trailing juniper, creeping Savin juniper
- Native Area: Northern United States, Canada, and Alaska
- USDA Zones: 3 to 9
- Height: 1 to 2 feet tall
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Drooping juniper gets its name because of the way that the branchlets droop down. The reddish-brown or grey bark shreds off in strips.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus flaccida or Juniperus gigantea, Juniperus gracilis, and Sabina flaccida
- Other Common Names: Mexican drooping juniper, weeping juniper, weeping cedar, drooping cedar, tascate
- Native Area: Texas, Mexico, and Guatemala
- USDA Zones: 8b to 11
- Height: Most trees peak at around 35 to 40 feet tall.
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As mentioned above, this is the main host for cedar-apple rust disease. This juniper species is especially fragrant, and this quality is sometimes used to repel insects. This tree is also used as a Christmas tree.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus virginiana or Sabina virginiana.
- Other Common Names: Red cedar, red cedar juniper, red juniper, savin, Virginia juniper
- Native Area: Eastern Canada, midwestern, southern and eastern United States, Oregon
- USDA Zones: 3 to 9
- Height: 30 to 40 feet tall
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The Greek juniper is often found growing alongside the stinking juniper (Juniperus foetidissima). These hardy trees can even grow on the sides of rocky cliffs.
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- Botanical Name: Juniperus excelsa
- Other Common Names: Grecian juniper
- Native Area: Eastern Mediterranean
- USDA Zones: "Stricta" variety grows in 5 to 9
- Height: 20 to 65 feet tall
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One Seed Juniper
Although this plant's cone usually has one seed (inspiring the name), it can produce up to three once in a while. This is a common host for the juniper mistletoe (Phoradendron juniperinum).
- Botanical Name: Juniperus monosperma
- Other Common Names: Oneseed juniper, sabina, single-seeded juniper, cherrystone juniper, red berry juniper
- Native Area: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico
- USDA Zones: 3 to 7
- Height: 10 to 40 feet tall, sometimes taller in the wild
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Rocky Mountain Juniper
This is a close relative to the eastern redcedar and is susceptible to cedar-apple rust. The Rocky Mountain juniper usually grows in a pyramidal shape. "Skyrocket" is an especially narrow type that is bluish-green.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus scopulorum
- Other Common Names: Mountain red cedar, Rocky Mountain cedar, Colorado redcedar
- Native Area: Western Canada and the United States, Nebraska, Texas and North Dakota
- USDA Zones: 3 to 8
- Height: 30 to 40 feet tall, though often more of a smaller shrub
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The city of Cedar City, UT, and Cedar Breaks National Monument got their names because of these trees, which grow abundantly in Utah and do well in its alkaline soils. It is also the juniper that you are most likely to run into in Arizona, as well as finding it growing throughout the rest of the western United States.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus osteosperma, Juniperus utahensis, or Sabina osteosperma.
- Other Common Names: Bigberry juniper, desert juniper
- Native Area: Western United States
- USDA Zones: 3 to 7
- Height: 10 to 25 feet tall
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The western juniper provides food for a variety of wildlife throughout the year. The wood was used for many different tasks during the pioneer era.
- Botanical Name: Juniperus occidentalis
- Other Common Names: Sierra juniper
- Native Area: California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington
- USDA Zones: 5 to 8
- Height: 15 to 30 feet tall