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Cone Bearing Evergreens - Juniper

( Originally Published 1927 )



The sign by which the junipers are most easily distinguished from other evergreens, is the juicy berries instead of cones. In some species these are red, but they are mostly blue or blue-black. Before they mature it is easy to see the stages by which the cone-scales thicken and coalesce, instead of hardening and remaining separate, as in the typical fruit of conifers.

Juniper leaves are of two types: scale-like in opposite pairs, pressed close to the twig, as in the cypresses; and stiff, spiny, usually channelled leaves, which stand out free from the twig in whorls of threes.

The wood is red, fragrant, durable, and light.

The Dwarf Juniper

Juniperus communis, Linn.

The dwarf juniper departs from the pyramidal pattern and forms a loose, open head above a short, stout trunk. The slender branchlets are clothed with boat-shaped leaves which spread nearly at right angles from the twigs in whorls of three. Each one is pointed and hollowed, dark green outside, snowy white inside, which is really the upper side of the leaf. It requires three years to mature the bright blue berries, and they hang on the tree two or three years longer. Each fruit contains two or three seeds, and these require three years to germinate.

It is plain to see that time is no object to this slow-growing dwarf juniper, found in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, covering vast stretches of waste land. From Greenland to Alaska it is found and south along the high-lands into Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and California. Its hardiness gives it importance as a cover for waste land on seashores and for hedges and windbreaks in any exposed situation. It is a tree reaching thirty feet in height on the limestone hills of southern Illinois. In other situations it is usually a sprawling shrubby thing, the cringing parent of a race of dwarf junipers, known in many and various horticultural forms.

The Western Juniper

J. occidentalis, Hook.

The giant of its race is the Western jumper, one of the patriarchial trees of America, ranking in age with the sequoias. Never a tall tree, it yet attains a trunk diameter of ten feet, and an age that surely exceeds two thousand years. At elevations of seven to ten thousand feet this valiant red cedar is found clinging to the granite domes and bare glacial pavements where soil and moisture seem absolutely non-existent. Sunshine and thin air are abundant, however, and elbow room. Upon these commodities the tree subsists, crouching, stubbornly clinging, while a single root offers foothold, its gnarled branches picturesque and beautiful in their tufts of gray-green leaves. Avalanches have beheaded the oldest of these giants, but their denuded trunks throw out wisps of new foliage with each returning spring. When they succumb, their trunks Iast almost as long as the granite boulders among which they are cast by the wind or the ice-burden that tore them loose.

The stringy bark is woven into cloth and matting by the Indians, and the fine-grained, hard, red wood finds no better use than for the mountaineer's fencing and fuel.

The Eastern Red Cedar

J. Virginiana, Linn.

The Eastern red cedar is a handsome, narrow pyramid in its youth, often becoming broad and irregular, or round-topped above a buttressed, twisted trunk, as it grows old. The scale-like leaves are four-ranked, blue-green when young, spreading, and sometimes three fourths of an inch long, on vigorous new shoots. The dark blue berries are covered with a pale bloom and have a resinous, sweet flesh. This juniper is familiar in abandoned farms and ragged fence-rows, becoming rusty brown in foliage to match the stringy red bark in winter time. The durable red wood is used for posts and railroad ties, for cedar chests and pencils. The tree is profitably planted by railroad companies, as cedar ties are unsurpassed. In cultivation the tree forms an interesting, symmetrical specimen, adapted to formal gardens.

The Red Juniper

J. Barbadensis, Linn.

The red juniper, much more luxuriant than its close relative of the North, is the handsomest juniper in cultivation. Its pyramid is robbed of a rigid formal expression by the drooping of its fern-like leaf-spray. The berries are silvery white and abundant. The wood is used principally for pencils. This species grows in the Gulf states.



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