Herbs & Plants

Juniperus monosperma

Botanical Name: Juniperus monosperma
Family: Cupressaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales

Synonyms: Sabina scopulorum (Sargent) Rydberg (Adams 1993).

Common Name: One-Seed Juniper, Rocky Mountain juniper, Mountain red cedar, Weeping juniper (Peattie 1950), Rocky Mountain redcedar

Habitat: Juniperus monosperma is native to western North America, in the United States in Arizona, New Mexico, southern Colorado, western Oklahoma (Panhandle), and western Texas, and in Mexico in the extreme north of Chihuahua. It grows on dry rocky or sandy soils, 1000 – 2300 metres altitude.

Juniperus monosperma is an evergreen coniferous shrub or small tree growing to 2–7 m (rarely to 12 m) tall, usually multistemmed, and with a dense, rounded crown. The bark is gray-brown, exfoliating in thin longitudinal strips, exposing bright orange brown underneath. The ultimate shoots are 1.2–1.9 mm thick. The leaves are scale-like, 1–2 mm long and 0.6–1.5 mm broad on small shoots, up to 10 mm long on vigorous shoots; they are arranged in alternating whorls of three or opposite pairs. The juvenile leaves, produced on young seedlings only, are needle-like. The cones are berry-like, with soft resinous flesh, subglobose to ovoid, 5–7 mm long, dark blue with a pale blue-white waxy bloom, and contain a single seed (rarely two or three); they mature in about 6–8 months from pollination, and are eaten by birds and mammals. The male cones are 2–4 mm long, and shed their pollen in late winter. It is usually dioecious, with male and female cones on separate plants, but occasional monoecious plants can be found. Its roots have been found to extend to as far as 61m below the surface, making it the plant with the second deepest roots, after Boscia albitrunca.

Frequently, cones can be found with the seed apex exposed; these were formerly sometimes considered a separate species “Juniperus gymnocarpa”, but this is now known to be due to insect damage to the developing cones (and can affect many different species of juniper); the seeds from such cones are sterile.


Succeeds in dry soils. Succeeds in most soils, including chalk, if they are well drained, preferring a neutral or slightly alkaline soil. Trees are fairly fast growing for a Juniper, and are also long-lived in their native habitats. They grow better in dry areas with hot summers, western Britain is generally to cool and wet for this species to thrive. Plants are resistant to honey fungus. This species is closely related to J. occidentalis. The seed matures in 1 year. Some fruit is produced most years, but heavy crops only occur every 2 – 3 years. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. 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.

Edible Uses:
Fruit is eaten raw or cooked. Soft, juicy and pulpy, but with a thin flesh. It can be dried and ground into a powder and then be baked, or can be used as a seasoning in stews etc. The fruits were only used when other foods were in short supply. The cones are about 5 – 8mm in diameter and ripen in their first year. Inner bark is also eaten – raw or cooked. It was chewed in times of food shortage for the little nourishment it supplied. The gum is chewed as a delicacy.

Medicinal Uses:
Juniperus monosperma was commonly employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes, who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The leaves are febrifuge, laxative and pectoral. An infusion is used in the treatment of stomach complaints, constipation, coughs and colds. An infusion was also used by pregnant women prior to childbirth in order to relax the muscles. A poultice of the heated twigs can be bound over a bruise or sprain in order to reduce the swelling. An infusion of the staminate cones has been used as a stomach tonic and in the treatment of dysentery. The chewed bark has been applied externally to help heal spider bites. It is also highly prized as a dressing on burns. The fruits are strongly diuretic. A gum from the plant has been used as a temporary filling in a decayed tooth.

An infusion of the leaves was also taken for muscle aches and to prevent conception. An infusion of the leaves was also taken postpartum to prevent uterine cramps and stop vaginal bleeding. A simple or compound infusion of twigs was used to promote muscular contractions at birth and used after birth to stop blood flow.

Other Uses:
Thin strips of the fibrous bark are used for making sleeping mats etc. It has also been used as a lining in shoes to absorb moisture and to keep the feet warmer. When rubbed fine, the bark can be used to make children’s clothing. The bark is employed as a tinder and is also made into a slow match or can be shredded, bound into bundles and used as a torch to give light in the house. 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. The dried seeds have been used as beads or as the ‘rattle’ in rattles. A green dye is obtained from the bark and berries. A yellow dye is obtained from the whole plant. Ashes from the whole plant have been used as a mordant to fix the colour of dyes. Wood – moderately hard, somewhat heavy, slightly fragrant. When seasoned properly it is very durable and is used mainly for fencing and fuel. As a fuel it burns steadily and evenly.

Among the Zuni people, a poultice of the chewed root was applied to increase the strength of newborns and infants. The wood was also used as a favorite and ceremonial firewood, and the shredded, fibrous bark was specifically used as tinder to ignite the fire sticks used for the New Year fire.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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