If you live in southwestern region of the country., you might be intrigued by a unique tree with cracked bark that resembles alligator skin, which is different from any other species of juniper.
This is the alligator juniper, and its broadly pyramidal or round-topped crown shape and deep-green to blue-green leaves can add some great height and color to your home landscape. In fact, as one of the largest species of junipers, alligator junipers can grow up to 50 feet tall.
Think you have an alligator juniper tree in your yard or maybe you’d like to plant one? Let’s explore some alligator juniper tree facts and planting tips.
How To Identify An Alligator Juniper
The alligator juniper is a fairly easily recognizable tree in your southwestern U.S. home landscape.
This juniper has a broad and rounded crown, and it’s one of the largest types of junipers, and as stated above, it also has the most unique bark among the other juniper species, clearly resembling alligator skin.
It has fragrant, dark blue-green foliage and attractive, copper-colored, berry-like fruit. Birds enjoy the alligator juniper berries, and the tree also provides nesting habitats and shelter for birds and other mammals.
Alligator Juniper Leaves
The alligator juniper tree has evergreen foliage that is scale-like, prickly and blue-green in color. You can usually find the leaves arranged in clusters of three.
This foliage makes up a dense and spreading canopy of deep green foliage.
Alligator Juniper Facts
When it comes to alligator juniper tree facts, there are quite a few things that distinguish this tree from other junipers.
First of all, the alligator juniper is a slow-growing tree, but it lives very long – anywhere from 500 to 800 years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this tree grows about .6 inches per decade until it reaches 170 years old, and then it slows its growth even further to about .4 inches per decade.
Also, the wood of the alligator juniper with its alligator skin-like pattern and attractive color and fragrance make it a favorite for woodworkers crafting chests or bookends. Its pleasant, cedar-like aroma makes it a top choice for firewood.
Alligator Juniper Care
You might find alligator juniper trees on rocky slopes in full sun. Location-wise, you can usually find them as far east as western Texas and as far west as northwestern New Mexico. Here are some care tips for this tree:
- Grow zones: The alligator juniper tree prefers USDA zones 7 to 9.
- Bloom: This tree is a non-flowering species. The female tree produces ½-inch whitish-blue berries containing two to six seeds.
- Height/spread: How big do alligator junipers get? Alligator junipers can get up to 50 feet in height with a 35-foot spread.
- Sunlight: The alligator juniper grows best in full sun.
- Water: The alligator juniper tree can be great for xeriscape landscapes because it doesn’t require a lot of water, but it is sensitive to heat.