Junipers are evergreen conifers and comprise the genus Juniperus of the cypress family (Cupressaceae). About 60 species occur worldwide, primarily in the Northern Hemisphere; 4 are native to Canada. Of these, eastern red cedar (J. virginiana) of the Great Lakes region, and Rocky Mountain juniper (J. scopulorum) of arid regions of BC, reach tree size. Common juniper (J. communis) and creeping juniper (J. horizontalis), both shrub species, occur in the Boreal forest and on the prairies.
Scalelike or awl-shaped leaves usually have a distinct resin gland on the surface. The round, berrylike seed cones are composed of fleshy, fused bracts (modified leaves) and scales. Male pollen cones and female seed cones usually grow on separate trees. Pollination occurs in spring; cones mature in the second or third year, turning blue. They have been used as flavouring (particularly in gin). The seeds are small, with 2 lateral wings, and the wood is hard, heavy, aromatic, purplish red and decay resistant. Juniper trees are usually too small to be commercially valuable in Canada but are widely used as ornamentals.