The western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) is one of those little brushy-looking trees that folks in the Pacific coast states see scattered about on the east (and drier) sides of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, and in some inland ranges such as the Ochoco mountains of Oregon. Occurring close to much taller species such as the ponderosa pine and the jeffrey pine, the rather scruffy-looking Juniperus occidentalis gets little notice, except perhaps by gin afficinadoes. But in fact it is one of the most remarkable of trees.
The site of the Bennett tree is at 8,400 feet elevation. When last measured in 1983, it was 86 feet high, and 40 feet around at the 4.5 foot mark. See here for a dramatic photo showing the size of this tree. It is estimated to be at least 3,000 years old, and maybe older than that. There are other large old junipers in the vicinity of this tree.
Here is a video interview of Mr. Ken Brunges, one of the juniper's summer resident caretakers, giving a fine on-site presentation about the tree. And here is an article from 2007 about Mr. Brunges and his dedication to the protection of this tree and the area around it. And here is the link to Panoramio with site location and more photos.
Oregon © Greg Harness, limited reuse per CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Fortunately for the species, the western juniper is consider to have little commercial value. It can be made into fence posts and carved into knick-knacks, but overall there is no lumbering pressure on the tree.
Here's an Oregon State University report (.PDF) that tells you everything you need to know about the occidentalis subspecies.
There a serious concern that juniper forests (also called juniper savannah, depending on the density of the trees) are expanding into areas previously dominated by sage brush. These are called "post-settlement" junipers.
One reason for the expansion of the juniper is thought to be the control of wildfires which previously had killed the young juniper. This can have a lot of negative effects, primarily arising from the juniper's ability to suck up all water from the ground, or, when the junipar canopy becomes more complete, block the limited rainfall (12 to 14 inches a year) from reaching the ground, preventing the establishment of soil-holding grasses and undergrowth. Here's a video which describes this issue:
And here's a thoughtful follow up video regarding juniper control which includes simple cutting and planned fires.
And just for fun, here's a video of a song that was a big hit when i was kid, possibly the only one ever written with "juniper" in the title, by Donovan:
Well, that's all for now. What do you think? Please feel free to post anything even remotely botanical you wish.