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Alligator Juniper Juniperus deppeana


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Family: Cupressaceae, Cypress view all from this family

Description Small to medium-sized tree reaching 10-15 m (rarely to 25 m) tall. Also known as Checkerbark Juniper. The bark is usually very distinctive, unlike other junipers, hard, dark gray-brown, cracked into small square plates superficially resembling Alligator skin; it is however sometimes like other junipers, with stringy vertical fissuring. The shoots are 1-1.5 mm diameter; the leaves are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or whorls of three; the adult leaves are scale-like, 1-2.5 mm long (to 5 mm on lead shoots) and 1-1.5 mm broad. The juvenile leaves (on young seedlings only) are needle-like, 5-10 mm long. The cones are berry-like, 7-15 mm in diameter, green maturing orange-brown with a whitish waxy bloom, and contain 2-6 seeds; they are mature in about 18 months. The male cones are 4-6 mm long, and shed their pollen in spring. It is largely dioecious, producing cones of only one sex on each tree, but occasional trees are monoecious.

Dimensions Height: 6-15 m. (20-50')
Diameter: 0.6-1.2 m. (2-4').

Habitat Mountains, Scrub, shrub & brushlands.

Range Southwest, Texas.

Discussion Five varieties, not accepted as distinct by all authorities:
Juniperus deppeana var. deppeana. Throughout the range of the species. Foliage dull gray-green with a transparent or yellowish resin spot on each leaf; cones 7-12 mm diameter.
Juniperus deppeana var. pachyphlaea (syn. J. pachyphlaea). Arizona, New Mexico, northernmost Mexico. Foliage strongly glaucous with a white resin spot on each leaf; cones 7-12 mm diameter.
Juniperus deppeana var. robusta (syn. J. deppeana var. patoniana). Northwestern Mexico. Cones larger, 10-15 mm diameter.
Juniperus deppeana var. sperryi. Western Texas, very rare. Bark furrowed, not square-cracked, branchlets pendulous; possibly a hybrid with Juniperus flaccida.
Juniperus deppeana var. zacatecensis. Zacatecas. Cones large, 10-15 mm diameter.