How To Identify Evergreen Trees Part 4: The Juniper Tree!

How To Identify Evergreen Trees Part 4: The Juniper Tree!

juniper berries header

Learning about tree identification and want to get better at identifying the many wonderful varieties of Evergreen trees around your yard or neighborhood? The novice may find themself referring to all of them as just Pine Trees.

However, you will find it is actually quite easy to pick out the differences and be able to tell various Conifers apart!

Today in Part 4 - It’s all about the Juniper!

Juniper Basics

juniper foliage

Members of the Cypress family include 50-70 species of Juniperus, and 13 species are native here in the US. These Coniferous shrubs and trees have needle-like juvenile leaves and overlapping, scale-like mature leaves. All Juniper species bear small seed cones called berries, which feed a wide variety of songbirds and wildlife and have been used as a seasoning and for producing gin.

Highly aromatic with a strong, resinous pine scent, these Evergreen natives occur from western Alaska throughout Canada, these cold-hardy trees can sometimes change their color in the fall and winter, taking on a bronze, blue, or purple.

  • Spiky, pointed, and prickly, very short needles - known as Awl-like when young
  • Flat, scaled foliage on older stems 
  • Can have a white stripe down the needles
  • Smaller branches tend to point out in all directions
  • Smaller stems can have a brown spiky protrusion (thorn-like) at the base of each where they branch off from the main stem/branch.
  • Range of green, glaucous green, blue-green, and silvery glaucous blue
  • Shredded or shaggy reddish-brown bark, even on stems and branches
  • Male cones are small and yellow to tan and resemble Hops or tiny cones
  • The berry-like cones on females are rounded blue, blue-green, silvery-green, glaucous, and round. Clustered towards the ends of the branches.

Native Junipers At Nature Hills Nursery

Check out the many varieties of native Juniper at!

Common Juniper (Juniperus communis)


The Common Juniper is a small tree or shrub that has lush green foliage and silvery blue-green berries. Being dioecious, the male and female cones of these Junipers appear on separate plants and require wind pollination to transfer pollen. The female cones feed a wide range of Songbirds, who in turn spread the seeds far and wide.

  • Native to Northern US and Canada
  • Green to blue-green spiky foliage in whorls around the stem
  • Thrives in cool temperate locations and dry and rocky areas
  • Very cold-hardy
  • 100-200 year life-span

Nature Hills has the beautiful little 8 - 12 inch tall Blueberry Delight Juniper that is upright and features bright blue cones!

creeping juniper

Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)


Growing low and prostrate, the Creeping Juniper is a fantastic groundcover that takes on a purple winter hue. Loving rocky outcroppings and more xeric soils, even in coastal conditions and urban environments, these blue-green shrubs feature bluish berries for the birds.

  • Wide-spreading, low-growing shrubs
  • Trailing or creeping stems
  • Fine-textured with showy cones on female shrubs
  • Can be monoecious or dioecious
  • Very xeric and cold-hardy shrubs
  • Northern US and Canada

You’ll find many of these groundcover Junipers here at Nature Hills, including the golden Good Vibrations®, the unique texture of Bar Harbor, the blue-green Blue Chip, the tough Wisconsin, and the popular Blue Rug among many others!

Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum)


The silvery blue to blue-green Rocky Mountain Juniper is a shimmering pyramidal shrub or small tree with pointed tops and a very fine-textured appearance! Growing narrow, these are rugged plants that are xeric and can handle incredible ranges throughout the US.

  • Silvery upright Junipers with fine-textured growth
  • Rugged and grows great in poor, rocky soil
  • Reddish brown to gray exfoliating bark
  • Highly adaptable and faster-growing
  • Wide-range of heights to choose from
  • Usually dioecious with fruit on female shrubs

Nature Hills features other forms of the Juniperus scopulorum, including the gorgeous silvery Moonglow that grows 18 - 20 feet tall, the well-known Blue Arrow, and the blue-green Skyrocket Juniper to become pretty backdrops, hedges, and privacy!

Red Cedar/Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)


eastern red cedar

The large and fast-growing Eastern Red Cedar, also known as Red Juniper, Virginian Juniper, and many other common names, is a prominent conifer that seems to grow all over the US.

Members of the Juniper family, despite being called Cedar, Red Cedar do not belong to the Cedrus family that true Cedar Trees belong to. So you’ll see many similarities to Juniper on Eastern Red Cedar trees. New foliage can resemble Juniper with short spikey needles, but older foliage is flatter against the branches and can have a scale-like look similar to Thuja/Arborvitae.

  • Flat arrangement of the branches and stems.
  • New growth is spikey (Awl-like) but mature growth is flush to the stem (Scale-like)
  • Similar brown/tan male pollen-bearing cones to Juniper
  • Similar Blue to silver to glaucous green round berries on female plants as Juniper
  • Similar shaggy reddish bark and reddish wood

Nature Hills also has the Taylor Juniper which is a tall, slender form that will be great if you are looking for a native cultivar to replace the Italian Cypress without the work.

For a completely different look, the Juniperus virginiana family includes the silvery-gray needles of the Grey Owl Juniper, which is a groundcover form of this hardy native, growing just 2 - 3 feet in height and 5 - 6 feet wide.

Other Native Junipers


Other native forms found throughout North America include these great varieties!

Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana)


The scaled bark of this Juniper gave it its namesake and it can be found growing throughout the western US to South America. Featuring glaucous silvery-green foliage and copper-colored berries. Alligator Junipers can have multiple trunks to create large-scale forms.

alligator juniper

  • Typically monoecious with male pollen-bearing and female berries on the same plant
  • Multiple trunks & large sized trees
  • Coppery berries and dark blue-green foliage
  • Tolerates dry soil, heat, and sun
  • Can live 500 to 800 years and grow 50 feet
  • Native to the Southwestern US

Also known as the Checker-Bark Juniper, this southwestern US native grows up to 33 - 49 feet in height.

Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis)


Hardy throughout the western US, these cousins to the Eastern Red Cedar are found in the hot and arid mountainous Pacific regions. Featuring waxy glaucous foliage and berries, these plants can be either male or female, or both and feature silver-blue berries.

  • Long-lived and highly adaptable shrubs or trees
  • Lives in higher elevations and hot, arid climates
  • Can be monoecious or dioecious
  • Blue-black berries on female trees
  • Gray-green to pale-green needles

Also known as the Sierra Juniper, Western Red Cedar, and Yellow Cedar, and because this tree was used to make pencils, it also earned the name Pencil Wood.

Pacific/California Juniper (Juniperus californica)


A small tree or shrub, with ashy bark and a shredded texture, is covered in blue-gray scale-like needles. Featuring a long history as a moth host plant and as a medicinal native for many indigenous Americans. Highly tolerant of alkaline soil, Pacific Junipers can provide erosion control on dry slopes.

  • Multi-stemmed rounded shrubs or trees
  • Aromatic and scale-like foliage
  • Blue-brown berries with a white waxy bloom

Also known as the White Cedar, and Sweetberry Cedar, these Junipers grow well in a wide range of climates and shrug off poor soil, mesic slopes, and even coastal sites.

Caring for junipers

Non-Native Juniper Varieties

  • Juniperus procumbens is a ground-hugging variety of Juniper. These Chinese Junipers include the Green Mound and the Dwarf Japanese Garden Juniper
  • Juniperus chinensis are another form of Chinese Juniper that are upright forms with green foliage and feature blue berries. With great forms that include the Spartan Juniper, and Blue Point Juniper, but also smaller ornamentals like the Gold Lace Juniper and Blaauw Chinese Juniper.
  • Savin Juniper (Juniperus sabina) are hardy to the mountains of southern Europe, Asia, and even Siberia. Largely dioecious, these incredibly tough shrubs have an upright fluffy texture and an unusual scent when crushed. The red-brown bark begins to peel on older shrubs. Drought tolerant, cold-hardy, and handles clay soil with drainage.

Caring For Junipers

Junipers grow best in full sun and although some may tolerate a bit of shade, you will still find the best plants in full sun.

Junipers are extremely drought and heat-tolerant after establishment. These hardy shrubs adapt to any soil as long as there is no sitting water. That includes sandy and rocky soils. Water your plant deeply a couple of times a week for the first year in the ground until established using the Finger Test.

Junipers are great street shrubs because they tolerate pollution and salt well. Mulching your plants with a couple of inches of pine straw or bark is great for protecting the roots, retaining moisture, and keeping the lower branches from touching the soil directly. The added benefit of using pine straw mulch is that it will add some acidity to your soil.

Junipers are disease, pest, and deer-resistant! Generally, as long as you avoid overly saturated soils and fertilize if you have nutrient-poor soil.

Scented, Easy-to-Grow, Hardy & Widely Varied

Junipers have a long history as landscaping ornamentals, beneficial to wildlife and songbirds, and have a broad range of uses as ceremonial, edible, cover, and medicinal plants!

Long-lived and wonderfully easy to grow, Junipers are rugged plants that handle nearly every tough condition your landscape can throw at them! Find how easy it is to grow and identify these unique Evergreens around your area!

Check out next time when we discuss identifying Cedar Trees!

Happy Planting!

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