One-seed juniper, a shrubby tree with shreddy bark, looks out of place among desert plants like sotol and saguaro. In a way, the species is out of place in the small mountain ranges where desertscrub is continuous from the bottom to the top. In these arid ranges, one-seed juniper is a relic of the cooler and wetter Pleistocene era, when woodlands of pinyon and juniper thrived where desert plants eke out a meager living now. The trees we see today are not ten thousand years old, of course; they are the modern remnants of former forests.
In the desert mountain ranges of western Arizona, one-seed juniper tends to grow in the shade of cliffs and on north-facing slopes, relatively moist habitats where seasonal aridity is somewhat ameliorated. Elsewhere in the Southwest, it grows on rocky hills and mesas, generally at the lower edge of woodland.
The soft, bluish berries are actually cones, since juniper is a conifer, like pine or spruce. Birds relish the cones and no doubt disperse the seeds from place to place. The wood makes a fragrant campfire that burns quite hot. It has been used for fenceposts and corrals.
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