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Utah Juniper

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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Juniperus osteosperma
FAMILY: Cupressaceae

This tree in Colorado Native to the Intermountain West the Utah juniper is often confused with the Rocky Mountain juniper because they are so similar. These two conifer tree species differ in the following ways: 1) The needles on Utah are yellow-green and Rocky Mountain has gray-green foliage; 2) On Utah the bark is gray and on Rocky Mountain the bark is reddish-brown; 3) Utah juniper usually has male and female flowers on the same tree, whereas on Rocky Mountain the male and female flowers are found on different trees.

Hardiness Zones 3 to 7.

Growth habit Upright evergreen that is more round than pyramidal in form as a mature tree. As a young tree it can have a single central leader, but as it matures it develops a short multi-stemmed appearance typically with low branches.

Foliage Scale-like, short-pointed, usually opposite in four rows, and yellow green in color.

Twigs Young twigs are covered with scale-like leaves for several years. Older twigs are reddish brown eventually becoming gray in color with time.

Flowers Male and female flowers are usually on the same tree.

Fruit Berry-like and 1/4 -5/8 inch in diameter fruit takes two years to mature and usually has one seed inside. Color is bluish-white when young, reddish brown as they mature.

Bark Gray, very fibrous and exfoliating.

Insects and diseases No major pest problems observed on this tree.

Landscape value Utah juniper is drought and alkaline tolerant. Suited to dry rocky sites this tree is hard to find in the nursery trade, because it does not possess the striking foliage or form of the more typical landscape junipers. Landscapes that contain Utah juniper are often created using indigenous stands.

Information sources
Dr. Michael Kuhns, A Guide to the Trees of Utah and the Intermountain West (1998)
Elbert L. Little, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees — Western Region