We depend on donations from users of our database of over 8000 edible and useful plants to keep making it available free of charge and to further extend and improve it. In recent months donations are down, and we are spending more than we receive. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Juniperus occidentalis - Hook.f.

Common Name Western Juniper
Family Cupressaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Usually found on thin rocky or sandy soils[229] on desert foothills and lower mountains[60], also on windswept peaks[82] up to elevations of 3,000 metres where they become low gnarled shrubs[229].
Range Western N. America - British Columbia to the Sierra Nevada.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Juniperus occidentalis Western Juniper

Juniperus occidentalis Western Juniper


Translate this page:


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Juniperus occidentalis is an evergreen Tree growing to 18 m (59ft 1in) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5. It is in leaf all year, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


J. pyriformis.


Woodland Garden Canopy;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[46, 61, 105]. A thin dry flesh[82] with a resinous flavour[2, 82]. The fruit is sweet and nutritious[2], it can also be dried or ground into a powder and mixed with cereal flours to be made into a bread[161].The cones are about 10mm in diameter, they take 2 years to mature[200].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Analgesic  Antiseptic  Birthing aid  Blood tonic  Diuretic  Febrifuge  Laxative  Miscellany  
Odontalgic  Poultice

Western juniper was quite widely employed as a medicinal herb by a number of native North American tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints, especially those related to the kidneys and the skin[257]. It is rarely, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The leaves are blood tonic and laxative[216]. A decoction is used in the treatment of constipation, coughs and colds[216]. An infusion of the leaves has been taken by pregnant women prior to giving birth in order to relax the muscles[257]. A poultice of the pounded moistened leaves has been applied to the jaw to treat swollen and sore gums and toothaches[257]. The berries are analgesic, blood tonic and diuretic[257]. A decoction is used to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps and to induce urination[257]. Externally, the decoction is used as a poultice on rheumatic joints[257]. The young twigs are antiseptic, blood tonic and febrifuge[257]. A decoction is used in the treatment of kidney problems, fevers, stomach aches, smallpox, influenza and haemorrhages[257]. The branches have been used in a sweat bath to ease rheumatism[257]. A poultice of the twigs has been used as a dressing on burns and as a drawing agent on boils or splinters[257]. A decoction has been used as an antiseptic wash on sores[257]. The leaves or young twigs have been burnt and the smoke inhaled to ease the pain of headaches[257].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

Now available: PLANTS FOR YOUR FOOD FOREST: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens.

An important new book from PFAF. It focuses on the attributes of plants suitable for food forests, what each can contribute to a food forest ecosystem, including carbon sequestration, and the kinds of foods they yield. The book suggests that community and small-scale food forests can provide a real alternative to intensive industrialised agriculture, and help to combat the many inter-related environmental crises that threaten the very future of life on Earth.

Read More


Other Uses

Basketry  Beads  Fibre  Fuel  Incense  Lighting  Miscellany  Tinder  Wood

The bark is employed as a tinder and is also made into a slow match[216, 257]. The crushed bark was twisted into a rope, tied at intervals with yucca (Yucca species), and wrapped into a coil. The free end was set on fire and kept smouldering by blowing on it at intervals. Fire could be carried in this fashion for several hours[257]. The bark can be wound around a stick and used as a torch to provide light and carry fire to a new campsite[257]. The bark can be rubbed between the hands until it is soft and the fibres can then be woven into clothing[257]. The bark can also be rolled into rope, coiled and then sown to form sandal shoes[257]. The root fibre is used to make twined baskets[257]. The branches have been burnt as an incense and fumigant in the home[257]. The dried seeds have been used as beads or as the 'rattle' in rattles[216]. Wood - very close-grained, light, soft, exceedingly durable. It is easily worked and can be exquisitely finished. Because of its small size, however, it is mainly used for fencing, fuel[46, 61, 82, 229].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Succeeds in most soils, including chalk, so long as they are well drained[1, 11], preferring a neutral or slightly alkaline soil[11]. Established plants are drought tolerant, succeeding in hot dry positions[200]. Plants are slow-growing, though they can live for 3000 years in the wild[200, 229]. They are much shorter-lived in cultivation[200], growing better in dry areas with hot summers[200]. Western Britain is generally to cool and wet for this species to thrive[200]. Plants are usually monoecious but are sometimes dioecious. Male and female plants must usually be grown if seed and fruit is required. The fruit takes two summers to ripen[229]. Plants are resistant to honey fungus[88]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is flat with shallow roots spreading near the soil surface [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

Shop Now


The seed requires a period of cold stratification. The seed has a hard seedcoat and can be very slow to germinate, requiring a cold period followed by a warm period and then another cold spell, each of 2 - 3 months duration[78, 81]. Soaking the seed for 3 - 6 seconds in boiling water may speed up the germination process[11]. The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Some might germinate in the following spring, though most will take another year. Another possibility is to harvest the seed 'green' (when the embryo has fully formed but before the seedcoat has hardened). The seedlings can be potted up into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow on in pots until large enough, then plant out in early summer. When stored dry, the seed can remain viable for several years[1]. Cuttings of mature wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel, September/October in a cold frame. Plant out in the following autumn[1, 78]. Layering in September/October. Takes 12 months[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Juniperus asheiAshe Juniper, Mountain CedarTree6.0 7-9 SLMHNDM102
Juniperus californicaCalifornian Juniper, ChuperosaTree12.0 8-10 SLMHNDM212
Juniperus chinensisChinese Juniper, Sargent juniperTree15.0 4-10 SLMHNDM023
Juniperus communisJuniper, Common juniperShrub9.0 4-10 SLMHSNDM334
Juniperus communis nanaJuniperShrub0.5 4-10 SLMHSNDM334
Juniperus confertaShore JuniperShrub0.2 6-10 SLMHSNDM203
Juniperus deppeanaAlligator JuniperTree18.0 7-9 SLMHNDM302
Juniperus drupaceaSyrian JuniperTree15.0 6-9 MLMHNDM30 
Juniperus excelsaGrecian JuniperTree20.0 5-9  LMHNDM213
Juniperus horizontalisCreeping Juniper, Horizontal JuniperShrub1.0 4-9 MLMHNDM213
Juniperus monospermaOne-Seed JuniperTree18.0 4-8 MLMHNDM323
Juniperus osteospermaDesert Juniper, Utah juniperTree12.0 4-8 SLMHNDM223
Juniperus oxycedrusPrickly Juniper, Cade juniperTree15.0 8-10 MLMHNDM012
Juniperus recurvaHimalayan JuniperTree12.0 6-9 SLMHNM111
Juniperus rigidaTemple Juniper, Needle JuniperTree8.0 6-7 SLMHNDM213
Juniperus sabinaSavine, Tam JuniperShrub4.0 4-7 SLMHNDM024
Juniperus scopulorumRocky Mountain Juniper, Weeping Rocky Mountian Juniper, Colorado Red CedarTree10.0 3-7 SLMHNDM324
Juniperus silicicolaSouthern Redcedar, Juniper, Southern Red CedarTree20.0 7-10 SLMHNDM223
Juniperus squamataFlaky JuniperShrub4.0 4-7 SLMHNDM013
Juniperus tetragona Tree0.0 7-10  LMHNDM202
Juniperus virginianaPencil Cedar, Eastern redcedar, Southern redcedar, Silver Cedar, Burk Eastern Red Cedar, Silver EastTree20.0 3-9 SLMHNDM224

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Print Friendly and PDF

Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Mark Cobb   Fri May 23 2008

West Coast Juniper The most extensive Western Juniper site around

   Sep 25 2012 12:00AM

I am not an expert on any species of plant, I am only relaying information that was given to me by other people and my direct observations. Claims that Juniperus Occidentalis can live to 3000 years have been largely discredited and are based on extrapolation of the age of the Bennett Juniper rather than proper measurement of any specimen. I believe that the oldest living Juniperus Occidentalis dated by counting tree rings is about 1500 years old, and is growing at the top of a cliff across the highway from my property (Scotty Strachan at UN Reno, unpublished data). Older trees may exist, but have not been dated. Older dead trees exist; that is trees that were more than 1500 years old at the time of death, but none are close to 3000 years old at the time of death. The size and age of the tree are poorly correlated, with very small specimens often having the greatest age. This makes selection of trees to sample difficult. A dead tree specimen collected from the cliff noted above has about 1600 rings but measures only about 18 inches in diameter, for example. In comparison, Scotty dated a live tree on my side of the road at 760+ years old, but it is about 60 inches in diameter (maybe a little more). Regarding the above growing environment: Winter lows to -10F, rarely below -5F. Summer highs to 90F, rarely above 80F. The dew point is usually about 20F (or ambient, whichever is less), any time of the year. The above location is about 2400 meters elevation. The combination of the two factors above yields intense sunlight.* I have not observed these trees growing anywhere that does not have such intense sunlight. Severe freeze-thaw cycling in the spring does not affect these trees. It kills or damages nearly everything else. At the above location there is about 27 inches of precipitation per year, mostly as snow in the winter with only about 2-3 inches in summer as rain. It prefers extremely well drained granitic sandy soil. Almost none grow in the nearby field of decomposed andesitic soil and most (all?) that are growing in the andesite are in small out cropings of granite within the field.** Most old trees show significant lightning damage and a strip bark growth habit. * Normal sunlight at sea level averages 1000W/sq meter. Sunlight at the above location averages about 1200W/sq meter in summer. Sunlight in space above earth is about 1350 W/sq meter. ** A large volcano encased a much older granite formation in Andesite about 9 million years ago. The oldest trees grow on the granite side of the currently exposed granite-andesite contact zone. Scotty notes that some old-looking trees exist on the far side of the old caldera from the above site, but has not had time to date any of them. M.L

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Juniperus occidentalis  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.