Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Juniperus californica, California Juniper

California Juniper is a cone bearing gymnosperm which means the plant does not have flowers which are (Angiosperms). The pollen cones are spheric to ovoid bluish, maturing brown-blue to red-brown in the second year. Juniperus californicaCalifornia Juniper is a perennial shrub or medium sized tree with gray bark with ex-foliating thin strips, the outer layers persistent. Juniperus californicaCalifornia Juniper grows up to 20 feet or more. This species prefers dry slopes, flats, pinyon-juniper communities and Mojave Desert desert-scrub. Juniperus californicaCalifornia Juniper grows in elevations ranging from 150 to 4,500 feet in elevation. Elevation wise, it is one of the lowest growing Junipers in the southwest. Juniperus californica
Group: Gymnosperm

Scientific Name: Juniperus californica
Common Name: California Juniper
Also Called: Desert White Cedar (Spanish: Táscale, Huata)
Family: Cupressaceae, Cypress Family
Synonyms: (Juniperus cedrosiana, Juniperus cerrosianus, Juniperus pyriformis, Sabina californica)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 20 feet or more.
Growth Form: Shrub or tree; multiple trunks from base, rarely single trunk; bark gray and thin, ex-foliating in thin strips; outer layers persistent.
Leaves: Green; whorled in 3's; scale-like, closely appressed; gland obvious.
Flower Color: Non-flowering species; cones only; gymnosperm; dioecious, rarely monecious; pollen cones terminal, seed cones also terminal; seed cones spheric to ovoid bluish, maturing brown-blue to red-brown in year 2.
Flowering Season: November to February for cone development; non-flowering gymnosperm.
Elevation: 150 to 4,500 feet.
Habitat Preferences: Dry slopes, flats, pinyon-juniper communities and Mojave desert-scrub.

Recorded Range: California Juniper is found in the far southwestern United States in AZ, CA, NV. It is also native to Baja California.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Juniperus californica.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.
Threatened/Endangered Information: In North America, California Juniper, Juniperus californica is "Protected as a Cactus, Yucca or Christmas Tree" by the State of Nevada.

Genus Information: In North America there are 30 species and 43 accepted taxa overall for Juniperus. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 75 accepted species names and a further 394 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona and New Mexico each have 8 species of Juniperus, California has 5 species, Nevada has 6 species, Texas has 8 species, Utah has 4 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: California Juniper is an important species, providing food and/or shelter for, among other animals deer, elk, pronghorn and Merriam's turkeys. Both birds and mammals readily feed on the annual berry crops. For a comprehensive thoroughly documented review of Juniperus californica see the USDA USFS Fire Effects Information System, or FEIS.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA); California Juniper is a host plant for Sequoia Sphinx moth (Sphinx sequoiae) larvae.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Redberry Juniper, Juniperus coahuilensis, Alligator Juniper Juniperus deppeana, Oneseed Juniper, Juniperus monosperma, Utah Juniper, Juniperus osteosperma and Arizona Cypress, Cupressus arizonica.

California Juniper has been used for food and medicine purposes by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.

  • Apache, White Mountain Drug, Anti-convulsive; Scorched twigs rubbed on body for fits.
  • Apache, White Mountain Drug, Cold Remedy; Infusion of leaves taken for colds.
  • Apache, White Mountain Drug, Gynecological Aid; Infusion of leaves taken by women previous to childbirth to relax muscles.
  • Cahuilla Food, Porridge; Dried berries ground into a flour and used to make mush or bread.
  • Diegueno Drug, Hypotensive; Infusion of leaves and bark taken for high blood pressures.
  • Kawaiisu Food, Bread & Cake; Berries seeded, pounded into a meal, moistened, molded into cakes and dried.
  • Kawaiisu Other, Hunting & Fishing Item; Wood used as the primary material for making bows, either self bows or sinew backed.
  • Mahuna Drug, Febrifuge; Infusion of berries taken or berries chewed for grippe fevers.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 06/25/2017
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 06/25/2017)
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 06/25/2017).
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 06/25/2017]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Robert P. Adams FNA FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 2 | Cupressaceae | Juniperus; 10. Juniperus californica Carrière, 3: 352. 1854.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    Bartel, Jim A. 1994. Vascular Plants of Arizona: Cupressaceae. J. Ariz. - Nev. Acad. Sci. Volume 27, 195-200.
    The Jepson Desert Manual; 2002; Baldwin, Bruce G., et. al.; The Jepson Desert Manual: Vascular Plants of Southeastern California; page 76 Univ. of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California
    Cope, Amy B. 1992. Juniperus californica. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
    Available: [2017, June 25].
    BAMONA; Butterflies and Moths of North America; Collecting and sharing data about Lepidoptera; (accessed 06/25/2017).
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information - (accessed Juniperus).