Juniper or Cedar?
Well, here I am again: wondering about junipers and cedar trees. I've checked an earlier column of mine (Dec. 13, 2005) and recall some of the pertinent details. Confusion! But now I've studied a bit more.
Result? More confusion!
The Cypress family, Cupressaceae, includes our junipers and cedars. The cultivars of the Cypress family are too numerous to list! They appear as neatly trimmed hedges, sprawling ground covers or as tall trees. In our recent trip through Delta, I lost count after I'd noted 120 in residential yards and business establishments. But a single characteristic identifies all member of the Cypress, including our "cedars" and "junipers." They have scale-like leaves that are appressed to the stem, like shingles on a roof. This plant family is the most widely distributed conifer (evergreen) family and occurs across the world except for Antarctica.
In our area, the names of juniper and cedar are commonly applied to the same tree. But can you imagine Juniper City instead of Cedar City? Or Juniperedge instead of Cedaredge? "Cedar" is more comfortable! And it turns out, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English, this usage traces all the way back to 1000 A.D. "Cedar" was applied to all of the pine trees, a spruce tree (both with long needles), and to the "junipers." The fruit looks like a berry but isn't a "berry." It's a woody cone with a covering. You can remove the covering with your fingernail.
At mesa-top, there's a low shrub labeled Common Juniper, Juniperus communis. Juniper is an old Latin name. In other species, Juniperus is now "Sabina," another ancient Latin name. Among our Aspen is Rocky Mountain Juniper, Sabina scopulorum (of rocky places) and at lower elevations is Utah Juniper, Sabina utahensis or Sabina osteosperma (bone seed).
Of course there were many uses found for such a widespread plant. If you're curious, check out Michael Moore's "Medicinal Plants of the Rocky Mountain West."
Meanwhile, enjoy our "cedars!"blog comments powered by Disqus