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:: Home > Watersheds > Forest Zones of Oregon > Western Juniper Forests
range map, subalpine forests

Western Juniper Forests

Ecology: Western juniper “forests” are the driest forests in the Pacific Northwest. In Oregon they’re found primarily east of the Cascades, although they also grow on hot, dry, low-elevation sites in southwestern Oregon. Due to intense competition for water and an extreme aversion to shade, western junipers grow in open, park-like stands. The widely spaced juniper trees are typically surrounded by big sagebrush, bitterbrush, and grasses.

Juniper trees on rocky outcrops in eastern Oregon.Ponderosa pine often occupies canyons and moist, north-facing slopes within these forests. Western junipers also occupy shallow soil areas within other eastside forest types. Prior to European settlement and fire suppression, western juniper forests were primarily limited to shallow soils and rim rock, where vegetation was too sparse to carry fire. Fire suppression has permitted western juniper to expand rapidly into traditional rangeland, where it competes with native grasses for water and nutrients.


Climate: Western juniper forests are found in climates with hot, dry summers and cold, dry winters. Most precipitation falls during the winter.

Management: Management activities are commonly aimed at controlling the spread of western juniper. Fire and cutting, sometimes in combination, are used to control junipers and to stimulate the growth of native grasses. Although attractive, the wood of western juniper is a minor forest product; a variety of oils and chemicals are distilled from the foliage and used commercially.

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