Western Juniper trees are a common sight in the high desert of Central Oregon, The Western Juniper is a distinctive tree or shrub, found in dry, rocky sites at moderate to high elevations. Juniper trees demand a lot of water, (they can drink up to 100 gallons of water a day)
It’s mostly at home in areas of scant rainfall (9 to 14 inches a year) and in shallow, volcanic soils that would drive a normal tree to higher ground. It’s sturdy, tough, and uniquely suited to the tortuous terrain of the Western High Desert. Nowhere is it more abundant than in Central Oregon, where it grows on about 3 million acres, in varying densities.
Older juniper trees have the ability to continue living and growing even as their center rots and becomes hollow. These hollow cavities provide unique feeding, roosting and nesting habitat for birds and animals.
The Western Juniper is given to growing in contorted, stunted, twisted, warped, crumpled, distressed and arthritic configurations. The oldest, most gnarled, disfigured Juniper trees, rival any other tree in terms of beauty and elegance.
Western juniper heartwood is highly durable. After being soaked in hot water, thin samples have even been tied into intricate knots without splitting. Western juniper wood can make beautiful, durable furniture and other lumber products. Its use is becoming increasingly popular as more juniper trees are removed from the landscape.
Only 3 to 5 percent of the juniper trees found on today’s high desert landscape were there during frontier days.
The oldest juniper in Oregon (estimated at 1,600 years old) is up on Horse Ridge, east of Bend. Just across U.S. Highway 20 to the north, the Badlands is full of ancient trees. There are also big trees in the country between China Hat butte and Fort Rock and out toward Post way east of Prineville. Today, 95% of all western juniper are less than 100 years old.
Facts About Western Juniper Trees
Our tree is believed to be over 500 years old!
Origin: 50 million years ago
Range: Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and California
Height: 15-30 feet
Tallest Tree: 98 feet
Age: 200-500 years old (typical)
Oldest Tree: 1,600 years old