A word about Junipers

By July 30, 2017 No Comments


Junipers is one of the popular trees in the bonsai community, and the two main reasons for this, is the type of foliage and the reddish color of the trunk.  Another reason is the flexibility of the branches of a moderate thickness.  Today, I decided to share a word about Junipers.

Junipers are from the cypress family

About Junipers

Junipers are evergreen conifers with sizes that varies from tall trees or low shrubs.

On the contrary of deciduous trees, trees that lose their foliage during winter, junipers are evergreen, since they keep their leaves throughout the whole year.  Most of the junipers produce ‘berries’ in red-brown to orange while others produce blue ‘berries’.    The Juniper berries are used as spices in a variety of culinary dishes.  They offer a ‘gin’ flavour.  In fact the word ‘gin’ is derived from the Dutch word for the juniper tree: ‘genever’.  Another important use for the juniper berries is the berries sauce used to flavour a variety of meat such as rabbit, quails, veal etc.

Blue Juniper berries

Different kind of juniper leaves 

  1. Scale Leaves

    1. Most of the junipers species have a scale leave. although they might vary in color and shape.

    2. These leaves are formed like rounded fish scales from which they took their name.

    3. As leaves they have a green color but they turn brownish when they become branches.

  2. Needle leaves

    1. The needle-leaves of junipers are very sharp and hard making these leaves prickly to handle, very similar to a juvenile leave but harder.

    2. They will retain its shape even when matured.

    3. These type of leaves serves as a protection to the tree from various animals trying to eat the foliage.

    4. When styling with a needle-leave juniper bonsai, the needle-leaves might harm and irritate the human skin.

Needle type leaves on the left and Scale type leaves on the right

Conifers are primitive to the broad leaf species nd evolving needle leaves was the solution for the survival of a tree in very cold climates.  Although in the form of a needle they are still leaves, and they perform like broad leaves: They have the ability to produce photosynthesis (Inhaling carbon dioxide and produce oxygen and glucose)

Conifers such as junipers are ideal for tough climate conditions.

  • Juniper leaves can capture more sunlight.

  • Needles-leaves are covered in a thick and waxy coating which helps in retaining more water than a broad leaf.

  • Can withstand harsh climates such as ice and snow.

  • More resistant to insects due to their tough skin.

Juniper leaves absorb sunlight like ordinary broad leaves

Juvenile and mature leaves

A new juniper cutting will produce needle like  juvenile leaves for a short period of time, and later, the tree will start to form matured scale leaves.  In nature juvenile leaves will happen on branches that are exposed to the shady area for a long period of time.  In bonsai, these juvenile leaves are visible after a juniper treepasses through stressed times, such as, heavy wiring and bending, or heavy pruning.


After drastic pruning juvenile foliage appears on junipers

Weeks after juvenile foliage has been produced by a juniper tree, matured scale foliage starts to emerge.  This shows that the tree has passed successfully from the stress period.

Matured foliage will become visible few weeks after the juvenile foliage


To maintain it’s perfect look, the juvenile leaves needs to be removed.  Junipers with juvenile foliage will not be exhibited, so avoid over stressing a finished tree.  It will take a year or more to correct the full foliage of the bonsai juniper from the juvenile foliage.

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Martin Abela

Author Martin Abela

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