Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Juniperus osteosperma, Utah Juniper

Utah Juniper is a common Juniper in the southwestern United States. It is a very slow growing species and may live for hundreds of years. This Utah Juniper was photographed in Monument Valley, Arizona. Juniperus osteosperma Utah Juniper has pollen and seed cones on the same plants (monecious). The leaves tiny and scale-like and vary in color from green to light yellow. Juniperus osteosperma Utah Juniper has gray-brown bark that weathers to ash-white. It is ex-foliating in thin gray-brown strips. Juniperus osteosperma Utah Juniper is a shrub or tree, usually with a single trunk and rounded crown. Across its range it grows in elevations ranging from 3,000 to almost 8,000 feet. Juniperus osteosperma

Scientific Name: Juniperus osteosperma
Common Name: Utah Juniper
Also Called: Spanish: Sabina Morena
Family: Cupressaceae, Cypress Family
Synonyms: (Juniperus californica subsp. osteosperma, Juniperus californica var. osteosperma, Juniperus californica var. osterosperma, Juniperus californica var. utahensis, Juniperus knighti, Juniperus knightii, Juniperus megalocarpa, Juniperus monosperma var. knightii, Juniperus occidentalis var. utahensis, Juniperus utahensis, Juniperus utahensis var. megalocarpa, Sabina osteosperma, Sabina utahensis)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 20 feet tall, rarely taller.
Growth Form: Shrub, Tree; usually with a single trunk; rounded crown; branches ascending to erect, branchlets erect; bark gray-brown, weathering ash-white, ex-foliating in thin gray-brown-strips.
Leaves: Green, light yellow; decussate or tricussate, closely appressed, scale-like, gland obscure.
Flower Color: Non-flowering species; cones only; gymnosperm; usually monecious; pollen and seed cones terminal; seed cones globose, green, maturing brown-blue to usually red-brown in one to two years, dry, hard, fibrous.
Flowering Season: Cones; Non-flowering gymnosperm.
Elevation: 3,000 to 7,800 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Dry rocky plains and plateaus, juniper and pinyon-juniper woodland, pine-oak forest, grasslands.

Recorded Range: Utah Juniper is found primarily in the southern and northwestern United States in AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, UT, WY.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Juniperus osteosperma.

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, Utah Juniper, Juniperus osteosperma 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: Utah Juniper wood does not readily decay and has been used for construction particularly fence posts. It makes excellent firewood with its distinctive popular smell, flavor and long burning coals. It is sometimes used for Christmas trees and is one of the most common Junipers in Arizona. This species is important to wildlife for cover and food and is used by many birds and wildlife including large and small mammals.

For a comprehensive thoroughly documented review of Juniperus osteosperma see the USDA USFS Fire Effects Information System, or FEIS.

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

Utah Juniper has been used for food and medicinal purposes by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.

  • Acoma Food, Soup; Berries cooked in a stew.
  • Apache, White Mountain Food, Fruit; Berries boiled and eaten.
  • Gosiute Fiber, Building Material; Bark used for thatching and as a floor covering.
  • Havasupai Drug, Cold Remedy; Green branches used singly or together with other plants for colds.
  • Havasupai Fiber, Building Material; Bark used on top of the brush covering of the winter houses to keep the dirt from falling through.
  • Havasupai Food, Beverage; Dried berries used to make a drink.
  • Havasupai Other, Fuel; Crushed bark used as a 'slow match.' The crushed bark was twisted into a rope, tied at intervals with yucca and wrapped into a coil. The free end was set on fire and kept smoldering by blowing on it at intervals. Fire could be carried in this fashion from early dawn until noon.
  • Havasupai Other, Fuel; Crushed bark used as a 'slow match.' The crushed bark was twisted into a rope, tied at intervals with yucca and wrapped into a coil. The free end was set on fire and kept smoldering by blowing on it at intervals. Fire could be carried in this fashion from early dawn until noon.
  • Paiute Drug, Analgesic; Fumes from burning twigs inhaled for headaches and colds.

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

    Date Profile Completed: 07/21/2017, updated format 10/12/2017
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
    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).
    Zlatnik, Elena. 1999. Juniperus osteosperma. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
    Available: [2017, July 20].
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 07/21/2017]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Robert P. Adams,FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 2 | Cupressaceae | Juniperus 9. Juniperus osteosperma (Torrey) Little, Leafl. W. Bot. 5: 125. 1948.; 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.
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information - (accessed 07/21/2017).