AppearanceThe "Juniperus oxycedrus" tree is very variable in shape, forming a spreading shrub 2–3 m tall to a small erect tree 10–15 m tall. It has needle-like leaves in whorls of three; the leaves are green, 5–20 mm long and 1–2 mm broad, with a double white stomatal band on the inner surface.
It is usually dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The seed cones are berry-like, green ripening in 18 months to orange-red with a variable pink waxy coating; they are spherical, 7–12 mm diameter, and have three or six fused scales in 1-2 whorls, three of the scales with a single seed. The seeds are dispersed when birds eat the cones, digesting the fleshy scales and passing the hard seeds in their droppings. The pollen cones are yellow, 2–3 mm long, and fall soon after shedding their pollen in late winter or early spring.
NamingAn additional variety or subspecies "J. oxycedrus" var. "badia" H.Gay Debeaux) is distinguished on the basis of larger cones, tinged purple when mature; it is described from northern Algeria, and also reported from Portugal and Spain.
A further species "Juniperus macrocarpa", confined to Mediterranean coastal sands, is more distinct but has also often been treated as a subspecies of Prickly Juniper, as "J. oxycedrus" subsp. "macrocarpa"; it differs in the broader leaves 2–3 mm wide, and larger cones 12–18 mm diameter.
Other close relatives of "J. oxycedrus" include "Juniperus brevifolia" on the Azores, "Juniperus cedrus" on the Canary Islands and "Juniperus formosana" in eastern Asia.
UsesCade oil is the essential oil obtained through destructive distillation of the wood of this shrub. It is a dark, aromatic oil with a strong smoky smell which is used in some cosmetics and skin treatment drugs, as well as incense.
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