Juniperus deppeana

Juniperus deppeana, Alligator Juniper (aka Checkerbark Juniper)
Near Pickett Spring, north of Kingston, Black Range
July 7, 2017

Alligator Juniper, Juniperus deppeana, has a hard time in the Gila National Forest.  The USDA Forest Service considers it a junk tree (that is the USDA part of their name - it is about exploiting the resource [not multiple use] and the resource is timber and grass).  This species has incredibly beautiful (albeit difficult to work with) wood.  It is my favorite cone-bearing tree in the Gila where it generally grows at elevations between 2,500’ and 8,500’.

It is named for its distinctive bark, which can be very striking in older trees (photo above).  The cones of this tree are berry-like and most (but not all) trees are dioecious (cones of one sex per tree).  In good years, the trees will take on a two-tone coloration (see photo below) because they are so heavily laden with berries/cones which are a lighter green than the foliage.

The trees shown here are most likely J. d. pachyphlaea.  Each of the leaves in this subspecies has a white resin spot versus a transparent or yellowish spot typical of the nominate subspecies (J. d. deppeana).  At onetime it was considered a full species, J. pachyphlaea.

As cattle grazing has denuded the landscape trees like the Alligator Juniper have spread into the degraded ecosystems.  In turn, it is regarded with vile - a perfect example of “shooting the messenger”.

The Alligator Juniper was first described by John Torrey, famous in our area and a renowned botanist, taxonomists, and explorer.  Its range is shown in the map from the United States Geological Survey to the right - from Elbert L. Little’s, Atlas of United States Trees.



© Robert Barnes 2018