Juniperus occidentalis var. australis / Sierra juniper

Juniperus occidentalis var. australis, first described in 1966 by Frank Charles Vasek (born 1927), is commonly known as Sierra juniper.

Description. Sierra juniper is a medium-sized tree which will grow to mature heights of 38 to 80 feet (12 – 26 m) tall with a stout trunk up to 10 feet (3 m) in diameter at breast height. Seed cones are 0.2 to 0.35 inch (5–9 mm) in diameter. Most plants dioecious, but about 5-10% are monoecious. This variety differs from the typical species in the following ways:

  • var. australis is 90% dioecious versus 50% for the type.
  • Branchlets in var. australis mostly have 4 scale leaves per whorl versus 3 in the type.
  • Mature seed cones in var. australis average 0.33 inch (8.5 mm) in diameter. In the type they are smaller at 0.3 inch (7.5 mm).
  • Seedlings of var australis often have 3-4 cotyledons. The type only has 2.
Distribution. This variety is native the U.S.A — California and westernmost Nevada, south of 40° 30′ N latitude in the Sierra Nevada and San Bernardino Mountains.

Attribution from: Chris Earle, The Gymnosperm Database, ©2013

Juniperus occidentalis var. australis showing distinctive bark, eastern Sierra Nevada, Rock Creek Canyon, California.
Photo by Mark A. Wilson (Department of Geology, The College of Wooster)
Typically picturesque trees of J. occidentalis var. australis above Olmstead Point in Yosemite National Park, California.
Photo by C.J. Earle, ©2008, via