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Juniper Trees: What Should You Know?

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Juniper trees are one of the most widespread trees in the world. Not only can you find them in across the Northern Hemisphere, but you can also find them in Africa, the Arctic, and South America. Furthermore, junipers can grow in almost any environment. However, junipers do not play well with other plant life. A juniper demands so much water to live that it will starve the surrounding plants. The Juniperus genus contains both trees and shrubs.

We can use the berries produced by junipers in many facets of our life, including cooking. Juniper berries are the primary flavor in gin. Overall, we have found many ways to use the juniper and their fruits, but they can cause some trouble for landowners. They can destroy ecosystems as they spread and affect the soil, plant life, and animal life. Junipers are very slow-growing. This can be a huge deterrent if you are looking to add this tree to your yard or garden.

How Many Kinds of Juniper Trees are There?

The number of Juniperus species is up for debate. Scientists disagree between 52 and 67 species. They are a member of the Cypress Family. We split junipers into two different sections dependent on their leaf shape. The Juniperus section contains trees with needle-like leaves and the Sabina section contains trees with scale-life leaves. Moreover, we further split the Juniperus section into two different sub-sections. According to, the three sub-sections are Juniperus, Oxycedrus, and Caryocedrus. They further breakdown into:


  • Temple juniper
  • Common juniper
  • Shore juniper


  • Azores juniper
  • Eastern prickly juniper
  • Chinese prickly juniper
  • Canary Islands juniper
  • Ryukyu juniper
  • Portuguese prickly juniper
  • Western prickly juniper
  • Large-berry juniper


  • Syrian juniper

Finally, we split the Sabina section into two sections: New World and Old World. Each section contains a multitude of species.

How Large do Juniper Trees Grow?

Junipers are large trees but do vary in size. Junipers can grow to between 60 and 130 feet. Most of the species grow to 3 feet in trunk size, but there are some that reach 13 feet. Additionally, junipers grow vast canopies that are widespread. On the other hand, the berries produced by junipers also vary in size. They can range from 0.16 to 1 inch in size. 

What Does a Juniper Tree Look Like?

Given that juniper trees vary in size, there is some variation in their appearance. Juniper trees have a blue to silver appearance, but some species are golden brown. Notably, juniper trees are coniferous. The Juniperus section has leaves that are needle-like and prickly. While the Sabina section grows, needle leaves that flatten when they mature and look like scales. Overall, most juniper trees have weeping branches that droop to the ground.

Juniper berries are not actually a berry.

Juniper Berries are not really berries

They are a type of cone but are edible. There a few species that produce berries that are toxic, such as the Juniperus Sabina. When immature, the berries are green and turn to a dark purple when mature. Overall, they grow to less than one inch in size. 

Where Can I Find a Juniper Tree?

Juniper trees are likely the hardiest and most widespread tree across the globe. They grow and thrive in the Northern Hemisphere. The Western United States is covered with forests of junipers. California being one of the most populated states.

Europe also boasts a significant population of juniper trees. They grow more often in the northern parts and in the mountain ranges all the way to Spain.

Eastern Asia claims the most junipers for the Asian continent. Moreover, junipers dominate in Japan and China.

Also, the juniper trees thrive in the mountain ranges of both South America and Africa.

How Long Can a Juniper Tree Live?

Juniper trees do not live as long as many other tree species. The average lifespan for a juniper is between 350 and 700 years. However, we have evidence of junipers living over 1000 years. The population is deteriorating in many states because of its damage to other plant and animal life. Humans are attempting to control juniper spread by thinning and removing juniper trees.

Can I Grow a Juniper Tree?

Junipers are hardy and easy to grow. They can grow just about anywhere. Overall, junipers are low maintenance, but they will need full sun and a drained soil that isn’t too wet. Juniper grow extensive root system that allows them to tolerate drought when necessary. Junipers are slow-growing. With this in mind, do not expect to see your juniper reach maturity for 50 years. Many plant junipers as ornamental trees or shrubs. A sapling can be purchased from a nursery. Therefore, you can get a leg up on that 50 year wait.

It is Time to BRANCH out into some fun tree facts!

  • The highest forest of junipers grows in Tibet at 16,000 feet in altitude.
  • Juniper berries are the original flavoring of gin.
  • The oldest juniper in the world grows in Northern California and is 3000 years old. You can visit it today if you visit the Stanislaus National Forest.

The highest forest of junipers grows in Tibet at 16,000 feet in altitude.

Juniper berries are the original flavoring of gin.

The oldest juniper in the world grows in Northern California and is 3000 years old. You can visit it today if you visit the Stanislaus National Forest.

What are Some Uses for Juniper Trees?

With the extensive growth of junipers around the world, humans have found a multitude of uses for the berries and the lumber.

Natural Uses

The most common portion of the juniper to use is the berries. We use the berries for medicinal and culinary purposes. Although the berries themselves are edible, we use them in many other ways. As shown above, the juniper berry is the primary source of flavor in the alcohol, gin. Originally developed in Europe as a medicine, we have been making gin since the 17th century. However, today gin is produced from many varieties of herbs. There are some brands that stick to the original flavoring of juniper. Chefs add juniper berries to recipes as a seasoning.

Juniper berries hold many holistic benefits. The berries can help issues throughout the GI tract and urinary tract. Juniper berries applied directly to the skin can help with a variety of aches, pains, and skin conditions. We make essential oils from juniper berries. Overall, these essential oils can aid in bronchitis and pain.

Artistic Uses

Juniper berries produce a lovely aroma. This has led many manufacturers to use the berries in candles, perfumes, and makeup.

The juniper wood is a beautiful hue. In fact, the wood has reddish undertones. Artists use the wood to carve various pieces of art that have the added detail of the lovely color.

Junipers are mentioned in various religions. Moreover, there are mentions of junipers in the bible for its cleansing abilities. Also, ancient mythology associated the juniper with various goddesses. Native Americans believed that junipers could help ward off evil spirits and witchcraft.

Residential/Commercial Uses

The wood is aromatic, and carpenters use it in many applications for furniture. The aroma repels insects, especially moths. While we can use juniper wood in all the standard applications of wood, it is not traditionally sought after.

Juniper wood is just as durable as redwood and cedar. However, knowing that the juniper is very slow-growing, we put a high price tag on the lumber. It is best not to use juniper as a load bearing wood. Juniper wood is not stiff and will buckle and bend under great loads. Overall, it is better as a finishing wood so that the aroma and beautiful coloring can be on display.

Wrap Up

Although juniper trees are slow-growing, the Juniperus genus is one of the most widespread genera in the world. Junipers grow from the Netherlands down to the Arctic. Different species thrive in African, Asian, European, and South American mountain ranges. The Western United States also boasts an abundance of juniper species. With abundant growth of junipers, humans have found many uses for both the lumber and the berries that they produce.

Typically, junipers are planted for their unique coloring and growth. The shrubs that fall in this genus reach maturity much faster, but many of the tree species take close to 50 years to reach full maturity. There are between 50 and 67 species. Scientists are still debating the accurate count and it will take more molecular study to decide. Furthermore, the juniper shares many similarities with cedar trees and many often confuse them in the Eastern United States.

We use the berries for both medicinal and culinary purposes. The berries provide a bitter seasoning to a recipe. Also, builders and carpenters use the wood in many settings, but you should not use it in a load bearing situation. For the most part, the juniper is an easy to grow and hardy tree that would be an excellent addition to your backyard or garden. You will just need to take care to plant it in a well-drained soil so that it is not over-watered.

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