Juniperis deppeana Steud.

by Peter A. Jolma, Native Plants of Arizona 2007
Common names
: alligator juniper (3),  checker-bark juniper (15), checkered-bark juniper (2)  alligator-bark juniper (6), thick- and oak-barked juniper (20),western juniper (6), cedro chino [rough (-barked) cedar] (6), cedro and tascate (27). 
Family: Cupressaceae (16)
Synonymy: Juniperis deppeana Steud. ssp. sperryi Correll (23).
Etymology: Species named after Ferdinand Deppe by Ernst Gottlieb von Steudal (1783-1856), a German physician and botanist (12, 22).  Von Steudel was a leading physician in the German state of Wurttemberg.  He was also one of the founders of a society that promoted botanical exploration and discovery by sending naturalists abroad to discover and collect plants (12).  He created a herbarium of over 20,000 species (12).  Deppe (1794-1861) was a German naturalist, explorer, merchant, and painter who traveled in Mexico and California in the 1820’s and 1830’s (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13).  He is also recognized for his painting of the San Gabriel Mission in1835 (7), the earliest known oil painting of a California mission (10). 

Growth form
: A medium-sized tree  (1, 2, 15, 18) or shrub (3) reaching 20 to 40 feet in height (15), occasionally reaching a height of 50 feet (2), maximum reported height 65 feet (15). Trunk diameters commonly up to 4 feet (1, 2), maximum reported 7 feet (15).  Trunk is usually single, short, and relatively thick (15).  The crown is rounded and dense, with deep green foliage (1, 2, 15, 20).  The crown has also been described as pyramidal (2).
Roots: Fibrous to woody (16) and deeply rooted.  J. deppeana is found mainly in mesic subhumid soils which have the following characteristics:  well-drained, mean annual temperature 47 degrees F (8 degrees C), mean annual precipitation 16 inches (410 mm), and, in Coconino and Yavapai counties,  in association with shallow soils formed on sedimentary and igneous hills and mountains (26).  Prolific sprouting ability from shallow roots, the root crown, and epicormic buds (15).
Bark: Bark grey to light brown, with exfoliating rectangular plates in the mature plant (hence the variety of common names) (1, 6, 15, 18).  The bark of the immature trunk and mature branches may be smooth with minimal exfoliation (6).
Leaves:  Bluish-green and scale-like, each dotted with resin.  Scale tips pointed, greenish-yellow, and offset from the branchlets. Scales 1 to 2 mm. long, keeled, and densely arranged.  Scales of terminal whip shoots a brighter green and have less prominent to absent resinous dots (1, 6, 15, 18, 20).
Inflorescence/flowers: Non-flowering.
Cones: Dioecious reproduction.  Globose seed cones mature in two years, measure 8 – 15 mm in diameter, contain 1 to 7 (usually 4) seeds, and change color from bluish-grey to reddish-brown during maturation (4, 6, 20, 27). Seed germination rates vary from 16 to 45% with a time requirement of 2 - 3 years; viability of 9 years has been reported (15).   Pollen cones mature and shed annually (17).
Similar species: None in Arizona and New Mexico (14).  In Mexico: J. d. var. gamboana, J.d. var. patoniana, J.d. robusta, J.d. f. sperryi, J.d. f. elongata, and J.d. f. zacatecensis (14).  DNA sequencing indicates that  J. deppeana var. deppeana and the species found in Mexico form a clade and can be differentiated by a morphologic key (14). 

Life history: Dioecious woody tree.  Slow grower (0.6 inch [1.5 cm] per decade) (15); maximum longevity 500 years (15).  Growth rate proportional to moisture availability (15).
Native/introduced: Native to the Southwestern United States and central and northern Mexico (14,19, 23).
Photosynthetic pathway:  3-carbon pathway (C3, Calvin cycle) (24)
Phenology:  Pollen shed in spring (5).
Distribution: Found between 4500 and 8000 feet in interior chaparral, warm and cold temperate forests and woodlands (5, 26) in the following Arizona counties:  Navajo, Coconino, Yavapai, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Pima, Pinal, and Santa Cruz (1).  Also present New Mexico, and west Texas (6, 14, 27).

Uses:  Good firewood with high heat value (1, 15) and used for fenceposts (6).  Of little commercial value.  Occasionally milled as lumber.  Most commonly used for novelty products such as lamp bases and bookends (15).  Provides shelter for livestock.  Food source and habitat for birds and mammals (15).  Foliage relatively unpalatable for livestock and most wild ungulates (15).  Used by Native Americans in the construction of pueblos and hogans, corrals and fences.  The fleshy female cones have been used by Native Americans in foods, medicines, teas, and ceremonial incense (15).


1.  Springer, J. et. al. 2005 (draft).  Plants of Northern Arizona Forests.  Ecological Restoration Institute and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff, AZ

2.  Epple, A.O. and Epple, L.E. 1995. A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona.  LewAnn Publishing Company, Mesa, AZ in cooperation with Skyhouse Publishers, Helena, MT.

3.  McDougal, W.B. 1973.  Seed Plants of Northern Arizona.  The Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, AZ

4.  Carter, J.L. et. al. 2003.  Common Southwestern Native Plants.  Mimbres Publishing.  Silver City, NM.

5.  Natural Vegetation Committee, Arizona Chapter and Soil Conservation Society of America.  1973.  Landscaping with Native Arizona Plants.  The University of Arizona Press.  Tucson, AZ.

6.  Elmore, F.H. 1976.  Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands.  Southwest Parks and Monuments Association.  Tucson, AZ.

7.  Arlt, G.O., translator.1953. Ferdinand Deppe’s Travels in California in 1837.  Glen Dawson.  Los Angeles, CA.

8.  Wikipedia (online).  October 8, 2007.

9.  Dave’s Garden (online).

10.  Askart (online)

11.  Neuerburg, Norman. 1995. “Romance of the Bells: The California Missions in Art.  Catalogue essay. The Irvine Museum. Irvine, CA.

12.  Botanicus (online).  Missouri Botanical Garden Library.

13.  Hughes, Edan. 2002.  Artists in California, 1786-1940. Crocker Museum.  Sacramento, CA

14.  Adams, R.P. and Schwarzbach, A.E.  December 2006. Phytologica. Gruven, TX.

15.  Tirmenstein, D. 1999. Juniperis Deppeana. In: Fire Effects Information System [online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:[2007, October 4].

16.  Watson, F.D. 1993. Cupressaceae. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+ Flora of North America North of Mexico. 12+ vols. New York and Oxford.  Vol. 2.  (online).

17.  Adams, R.P. 1993. Juniperis Linnaeus.  In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds.  1993+ Flora of North America North of Mexico.  12+ vols. New York and Oxford.  Vol. 2. (online)


18.  Baskauf, S.J. Juniperis deppeana. Images of tree, bark, scales, and cones (online)

19.  Wikipedia, October 10, 2007 (online)

20.  Earle, C.J. 1997+.  The Gymnosperm Database.  (online)

21.  Kearney,T.H. and Peebles, R.H. 1951. Arizona Flora, 2nd ed. University of California Press.  Berkeley, CA. General reference.

22.  Botanicus (online). Missouri Botanical Garden Library.

23.  USDA, NRCS. 2007. The PLANTS database (, 10 October 2007). National Plant Data Center.  Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490.

24.  Stern, K.R. 1985.  Introductory Plant Biology. William C. Brown Publishers.  Dubuque, IA.

25.  Hendricks, D.M. 1985. Arizona Soils. College of Agriculture  University of Arizona. Tucson, AZ.

26.  Brown, D.E. 1994. Biotic Communities. Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico.  University of Utah Press.  Salt Lake City, UT.

27.  Carter, J.L et al. 2003. Common Southwestern Native Plants. Mimbres Publishing.  Silver City, NM.