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.

Ethno-Herbalist: Southern California Ethnobotany; Ethnobotany of Southern California Native Plants: California Juniper, Juniperus californica.

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, updated 11/21/2017
    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).