creeping juniper

(Juniperus horizontalis)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

creeping juniper


N5 - Secure

S3 - Vulderable


Special Concern

Great Plains

UPL - Obligate upland


FACU - Facultative upland

Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland




Uncommon, localized


Dry. Prairies, sand barrens, sand dunes, rock outcrops, stream banks. Full sun. Sandy or gravelly soil.




Up to 12


This is a low, fast-growing, short-lived, evergreen, perennial shrub. It often forms large, dense, sometimes mat-like clones.

The stems lay flat on the ground (prostrate), sometimes with the tips curved upward (decumbent). They may be 4 to 8 long, up to ¾ in diameter, and 4 to 12 in height. They often root at the nodes and then detach, forming a new plant, a process known as layering.

The bark is reddish-brown and thin at first, eventually peeling in thin strips. On larger branches it peels in wide strips or plates.

The branches are slender, upright, 3- or 4-sided in cross section, and hairless. In the first year they are green and are tightly wrapped with overlapping, awl-shaped scales. The scales turn reddish-brown in the first winter and remain of the branch for 2 to 5 years.

The leaves are opposite and evergreen, persisting 4 to 5 years. They are green but turn reddish-purple in the winter. There are two types of leaves, juvenile whip leaves and adult scale-like leaves. Whip leaves are awl-shaped to needle-like and spread away from the stem. They are to ¼ long, 1 64to 1 32 wide, and are sharply pointed at the tip. They are not jointed at the base but merge smoothly with the stem. The margins are untoothed. Adult leaves are egg-shaped, are tightly appressed to the stem, and overlap for of their length. They are 1 32 to long, 1 64to 1 16 wide, and are rounded or broadly pointed at the tip, with an abrupt, small, slender point at the tip. The margins are untoothed.

Numerous male (pollen) and female (seed) cones are borne on separate plants. The male cone is yellowish-brown, ellipse-shaped to oblong, and 1 16 to long. It is stalkless and is are borne at the end of a second-year branch. It is composed of 6 to 10 cone scales. It releases pollen in late April to late May. The mature female cone is fleshy, berry-like, egg-shaped to globe-shaped, and 3 16to 5 16 in diameter. It is on a curved, scaly, 1 16 to long stalk and is borne at the end of a second-year branch. It is green at first, becoming bluish-black and covered with a bluish-white, waxy coating (glaucous) as it ripens. It matures in the second year.


Common juniper (Juniperus communis var. depressa) is usually at least 3 tall. It has only needle-like leaves, no scale-like leaves.

Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana) is a tree. The female cones are on straight stalks. It is otherwise indistinguishable in appearance.

Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 28.




Cupressaceae (cypress)


Juniperus horizontalis var. douglasii

Juniperus horizontalis var. glauca

Juniperus horizontalis var. variegata

Juniperus hudsonica

Juniperus prostrata

Juniperus repens

Juniperus virginiana var. prostrata

Sabina horizontalis

Sabina prostrata


American savin

creeping juniper

creeping savin juniper


prostrate juniper

shrubby red-cedar

trailing juniper

Waukegan juniper












Reclining on the ground but with the tips ascending.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



A method of propagation where a stem or branch comes into permanent contact with the soil, sprouts roots, and then detaches from the main plant.



Laying flat on the ground.

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Female Seed Cones

  creeping juniper   creeping juniper

Immature, Awl-shaped Leaves

  creeping juniper    

Mature, Scale-like Leaves

  creeping juniper    






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William Olson

Hi Info,
  I have a small plot (about 20' diameter) of creeping juniper,  Juniperus horizontalis, growing on   my property in Lake of the Woods County, 5.5 miles North of Roosevelt, MN  on  Rocky Point RD.  Thanks to your website, I finally found out what the patch was.  It is growing in a patch of woods, Aspen, Balsam Popler, Spruce &  assorted brush.  It is the only patch that I have seen on my property, or anywhere else, so far.
   I give you this information just in case you might be interested in its actual range.





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