Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) This conifer has the ability to survive under the harshest conditions, including intense sunlight, fierce winds, scarce water, and eroding soil. What are the secrets to its survival? It can grow a tap (central) root 40 feet long straight down through rocks and crevices. Its lateral roots can travel 100 feet away from the tree, and the tree can survive even when it is knocked down as slopes erode around it. Under stress, such as drought, whole parts of the tree can shut down. Nutrients are routed to a few branches so that the tree can survive and reproduce.
Trees live as long as 350 – 700 years, and some individuals have been found that are even older. A waxy coating covers the greenish-blue juniper berries—which are actually fleshy cones—to help protect them from drought. They are eaten by many kinds of wildlife in the canyon, such as wild turkeys and rock squirrels.
The Hopi Indians use the Utah juniper for medicine and ceremonial purposes and the berries for beads. The Navajo Indians use the wood for hogans, firewood and fenceposts, and the shreddy bark for bedding.