Utah Juniper at Sipapu Bridge

Mike Wills at Sipapu Bridge Photo by Pam Wills


Here is a unique tree in the unworldly environment near Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument.  I am looking from under a huge Cottonwood tree trunk, in the above photography taken by my wife Pam.


This tree is an older specimen of the Utah Juniper featured with my fine art print of Sipapu Bridge (click any pic in this posting to view).  Also known as Shag Bark juniper for the thin peices that separate from the trunk.  These tress can live to over 600 years and, like this example, are photogenic.

Utah Junipers are found throughout the American Southwest, here growing near Sipapu Bridge of Natural Bridges National Monument, Blanding, Urah

It is a common species through Utah, being found most often at elevations above sagebrush/grass and below pinyon pine (4,000 to 7,500 feet).  As the environment changes with the presence of people and changing climate, this juniper is becoming more common.  Nearly 1/5th the land of Utah is covered by Utah Juniper.

Macro of the leaves and berries of the One Seed Juniper taken near Kachina Point of the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Arizona


Not shown here are the fascinating (for me, anyway) berries (also called “cones” or “berry-cones”).  Each contains seeds, is hard and green, about a quarter inch across.  If you are brave enough to eat it, you find it to have a pleasant, resinous flavor (a taste like the aroma of pine cones).  These seeds are the manner in which the Utah Juniper spreads.  The tree has both male and female parts and can fertilize itself, so it is possible an isolated stand can all spring from a single individual (unlike humans, for example).

Native Americans consume the berries and the wood, being highly decay resistant, is commonly used for fence posts and other applications exposed to the elements.

Juniper berries are eaten by jackrabbits, foxes and coyotes.  Many bird species rely on this abundant fruit for fall and winter food.  Mule deer will each the scaly leaves when other food is scarce, for example when the winter snows are very deep.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

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