Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)
Family: Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)
Description: may grow up to 9 m tall, although average height is 3-6 m. Seedling leaves are 5-10 mm long and needle-like in appearance. Mature leaves are 1-2 mm-long scales that hug the stems tightly. Bark is fibrous and often twisted. Cones are 8-13 mm in diameter and look like waxy, blue-brown berries 8-13 mm. This species is evergreen.
Range: occurs throughout the Rocky Mountain Region from Utah to Colorado, north to Montana, and south to New Mexico and Arizona. It grows throughout Colorado National Monument.
Did you know: the blue "berries" of the Utah Juniper are actually cones, making the Utah Juniper more closely related to a pine tree than to any true berry-producing plant. Various Native American groups in the desert west used Juniper "berries" medicinally, ceremonially, or secularly as beads. Today, we use the sour-tasting cones of the Juniper to flavor gin (which fittingly derives its name from Dutch jenever, meaning "juniper").
Did You Know?
Independence Monument is all that remains of a continuous ridge that once formed a wall between Monument and Wedding Canyons. A cap of durable Kayenta rock has protected this picturesque 450 feet (137 meters) high monolith from the relentless erosion that carried away the surrounding rock.