Life Span: Perennial
Mountain juniper can be a shrub or small tree, growing 3 to 30 feet
tall. It branches near the ground, and has more of a Christmas tree
shape than Utah juniper. Rocky Mountain juniper pollinates April
to May, juniper "berries" mature October to December of
the second year following pollination. Reproduces from seed.
and female cones are on separate trees. The female cones are inconspicuous
the first year, solitary at the tips of branchlets. The mature cones
are berry-like, fleshy, gummy, bright blue to purplish, and covered
with a whitish bloom that will wipe off.
Two seeds are contained within the "husk" of the cone.
Seeds are about 1/8 inch long, pointed on one end with a small,
dark mark on the other end.
scale-like, and small (about 1/16 to 1/8 inch long). On new growth
and seedlings, the leaves are frequently elongated and awl-like.
Leaf tips slightly overlap the base of the next leaves up the twig.
They are pale to dark green in color.
are slender and scaly, being flattened at first, then becoming round.
Bark is reddish-brown and shreddy. The wood of soft, light in weight,
with reddish heartwood and a thick, light colored sapwood beneath
the bark. The wood is desirable for making cedar chests and other
decorative wood products.
Mountain juniper is a dry, or more rarely, moist, subhumid plant
which grows well on open, exposed bluffs, rocky points, or ridgetops,
on southern exposures and in ravines or canyons. It is found between
5,000 and 9,000 feet elevation.
abundant on calcareous and somewhat alkaline soils.
gambel oak, chokecherry,
waterleaf, mixed conifer, and big sagebrush.
Mountain juniper provides food and cover for a number of wildlife
species. It is used to some extent by elk, mule deer, whitetail
deer, bighorn sheep, and antelope. Migratory birds, turkeys, and
other upland game birds readily consume Rocky Mountain juniper "berries".
The "berries" are also eaten by many species of small
mammals. Rocky Mountain juniper is sometimes used by sheep and other
domestic livestock, but is not a favored foliage plant, and may
American Indians ate the fruits raw or cooked, and used them as
flavoring for meat and gin. Fruits and young shoots were boiled
for tea; fruits were ground for mush and cakes. The wax from berries
was used in candles. It is currently used as an ornamental, in shelterbelts,
for fence posts, and fuel. It is reported to have insect repellent