The Gymnosperm Database


Foliage and cones (ANU Forestry website).


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Conservation status

Juniperus chinensis

Linnaeus 1767

Common names

Yuan bai (Fu et al. 1999); ibuki, byakushin [Japanese] (Iwatsuki et al. 1995), Chinese juniper (ANU Forestry website).

Taxonomic notes

Four varieties, the type, J. chinensis var. sargentii A. Henry 1912, J. chinensis var. tsukusiensis Masamune 1930, and J. chinensis var. arenaria E.H. Wilson 1928. I have no data on var. arenaria, save that it occurs near Lake Qinghai in China (Farjon 1998).

Synonymy for var. chinensis (Farjon 1998):


Dioecious (rarely monoecious) evergreen creeping shrub, shrub or tree to 25 m tall, 60 cm dbh. Bark grey-brown to red-brown, longitudinally fissured, peeling off in thin flakes. Branches ascending; branchlets straight or slightly curved, red-green, glabrous, terete or 4-angled, 1-1.2 mm in diameter. Both acicular and scale-like leaves may be present, the acicular leaves predominating on juvenile plants and lower branches of older plants. The acicular leaves are decussate or in whorls of 3, loosely arranged, ascending, nearly lanceolate, (3-)6-12 mm long, 0.8-1.5 mm wide, compressed, apex pointed and soft or spiny, gradually narrowing toward base, with 2 white stomatal bands on upper surface, light to dark green, slightly ridged on lower surface. Scale leaves are decussate opposite, closely appressed, rhomboid-ovate, obtuse, ca. 1.5 mm long, 1 mm wide, dark green, with an oblong gland in middle of dorsal surface. Flowers are solitary, terminal on previous year's scale leaved shoots, appearing in February to April. Pollen cones are yellow, oblong-ellipsoid, 4-6 mm long and 2-3 mm wide, with 14-18 microsporophylls. Seed cones are on short stalks, globose, purple-black to purple-brown, 4-10 mm diameter, with (1-)3(-4) seeds. Seeds ovoid, blunt, keeled, triangular in cross section, brown, 3-6 mm long and 2-5 mm wide, with resin pits. Chromosome number: 2n = 22, 33, 44 (Iwatsuki et al. 1995, Fu et al. 1999).

Fu et al. (1999) present the following key to three of the varieties. See also J. procumbens, a similar species native to Japan.

1a. Trees or erect shrubs; needlelike leaves in whorls of 3, loosely arranged, 8-12 mm var. chinensis
1b. Shrubs procumbent; needlelike leaves decussate or in whorls of 3, densely arranged, 3-6 mm.  
2a. Needlelike leaves sparse or absent on mature plants, decussate var. sargentii
2b. Needlelike leaves usually present on mature plants, often in whorls of 3 var. tsukusiensis

Distribution and Ecology

The species as a whole is native in China: Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Nei Mongol, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Zhejiang; Taiwan; Japan; Korea; Myanmar; and Russia (Fu et al. 1999). Hardy to Zone 4 (cold hardiness limit between -34.3°C and -28.9°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001, variety not specified).

Var. chinensis is restricted to China: Anhui, Fujian, S Gansu, Guangdong, N Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, W Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Nei Mongol, S Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Zhejiang, at elevations of 1,400-2,300 m; Japan, on the Pacific Ocean side of Honshu (southward from Fukushima Prefecture and Chiba Prefecture to Wakayama Prefecture), Shikoku, Kyushu, and Ryukyu (Amami-oshima, Tokunoshima and Okinawa Islands), generally near the sea; Korea; and Myanmar (Iwatsuki et al. 1995, Fu et al. 1999).

Big tree




This is an extremely popular horticultural species, possibly the commonest ornamental juniper (perhaps excepting J. communis).




See also

Farjon (2005) provides a detailed account, with illustrations.

Last Modified 2017-12-29