Appearance''Juniperus californica'' is a shrub or small tree reaching 3–8 metres , but rarely up to 10 metres tall. The bark is ashy gray, typically thin, and appears to be "shredded". The shoots are fairly thick compared to most junipers, between 1.5 and 2 millimeters in diameter.
Foliage is bluish gray and scale like. The leaves are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or whorls of three; the adult leaves are scale like, 1 to 5 mm long on lead shoots and 1 to 1.5 mm broad. The juvenile leaves are needle like, 5 to 10 mm long.
The cones are berry like, 7 to 13 mm in diameter, blue brown with a whitish waxy bloom, turning reddish brown, and contain a single seed . The seeds are mature in about 8 or 9 months. The male cones are 2 to 4 mm long, and shed their pollen in early spring. It is largely dioecious, producing cones of only one sex, but around 2% of plants are monoecious, with both sexes on the same plant.
It is closely related to ''Juniperus osteosperma'' from further east, which shares the stout shoots and relatively large cones, but differs in that Utah juniper is largely monoecious, its cones take longer to mature , and it's also markedly more cold tolerant.
DistributionAs the name implies, it is mainly found in numerous California habitats, although its range also extends through most of Baja California, a short distance into the Great Basin in southern Nevada, and into northwestern Arizona. In California it is found in: the Peninsular Ranges, Transverse Ranges, California Coast Ranges, Sacramento Valley foothills, Sierra Nevada, and at higher elevation sky islands in the Mojave Desert ranges.
It grows at moderate altitudes of 750–1,600 metres . Habitats include: pinyon-juniper woodland with single-leaf pinyon ; Joshua tree woodland; and foothill woodlands, in the montane chaparral and woodlands and interior chaparral and woodlands sub-ecoregions.
Uses''Juniperus californica'' provides food and shelter for a variety of native ground and avian wildlife. It is a larval host for the native moth sequoia sphinx .
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