895 Juniperus squamataCommon Names: singleseed juniper, flaky juniper Family: Cupressaceae (cypress Family)
Singleseed juniper is a decidedly bluish coniferous evergreen shrub or small tree. Cultivars have been selected to grow as groundcovers, spreading shrubs and small upright trees. Singleseed juniper has stringy exfoliating rusty brown bark that peels in thin flakes. The foliage is silvery bluish or grayish and the individual needles are shaped like little awls, sharply pointed and less than 0.3 inch (0.8 cm) long. The needles are borne in spreading tufts of three, and each has a lighter colored band down its center. Singleseed juniper has distinctively nodding branch tips. The fruits are fleshy, glossy black, berrylike cones about 0.3 inch (0.8 cm) long, ripening in their second year, and each containing a single seed.
Two varieties are recognized. Juniperus squamata var. fargesii is a tree to 60 ft (18.3 m) tall, usually with multiple trunks; the bark peels in long strips and the branch tips are conspicuously pendulous. Variety squamata has several popular cultivars. 'Blue Carpet' makes a fine groundcover; it has bluish gray foliage and gets 8-12 in (20.3-30.5 cm) tall while spreading out 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m). 'Blue Star' is an upright, rounded bush to 16 in (4.9 cm) tall and 2 ft (0.6 m) across. 'Meyeri', the commonest cultivar, is a dense shrub, 10-20 ft (3.1-6.1 m) tall and spreading about the same; it has powdery blue needles and the tips of the young shoots arch and nod in the breeze. 'Meyeri' grows into an irregular, somewhat ungainly form, and is usually disfigured by persistent dead twigs and foliage. Some cultivars of J. chinensis and J. procumbens occasionally are labeled as belonging to this species, but they can be distinguished from J. squamata by their cones which contain several seeds, not just one, and they do not have nodding branch tips. Some juniper cultivars in the trade are interspecific hybrids of uncertain provenance.
Singleseed juniper is native to the Himalayan Mountains in Afghanistan and western China. The various cultivars are popular ornamentals in western Europe.
CultureLight: Full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Singleseed juniper can tolerate brief droughts. It requires a well-drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Propagation: The junipers can be difficult to grow from seed, with germination sometimes taking several years. They're easy to start from cuttings, though. Try rooting softwood cuttings in summer with bottom heat under mist, or mature wood cuttings in winter in a cool location.
The small upright cultivars such as 'Blue Star' are well suited to the rock garden or along a path. The prostrate spreaders make fine evergreen groundcovers. The larger shrubs are used as specimens or anchors for informal hedges.
Most species of juniper - for example, creeping juniper (J. horizontalis), Parson's juniper (J. davurica 'Parsonii') and eastern red cedar (J. virginiana) - have two kinds of leaves: needlelike juvenile leaves and scalelike adult leaves which are closely pressed to the twigs. Singleseed juniper never develops the scalelike adult leaves.
Steve Christman 12/21/00; updated 3/18/04