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Conservation status

Juniperus foetidissima

Willd. 1806

Common names

Taxonomic notes

Syn.: Juniperus phoenicea Pall. (non L., 1753) 1789; Juniperus sabinoides Grisebach 1846; Juniperus foetida var. squarrulosa Spach 1842; Sabina foetidissima (Willd.) Ant. 1857; Juniperus foetidissima var. pindicola Formanek 1896; Juniperus foetidissima var. squarrosa Medw. 1903 (Farjon 1992). Vidakovic (1991) but not Farjon (1992) recognizes one variety, pindicola; see "Distribution and Ecology" below.


"Habit: tree, occasionally a shrub or a prostrate shrub, max. height 10-15(-20) m, dbh 1 m, usually monopodial; branches of first order spreading or ascending, irregular, branches of higher orders spreading, short, thick and often crooked; crown more or less pyramidal in young trees, irregular and broad in old trees, often a shrub in tree line conditions on high mountains; bark on young trees or branches smooth, soon with papery flakes, on old trees fibrous, grey, peeling off longitudinally in strips. Foliage: branchlets usually in dense, intricate and irregular sprays; the ultimate branchlets covered with leaves, distinctly quadrangular, 1.2-2 mm thick, at first green, later reddish-brown and rough with recurved scale leaves. Leaves: juvenile leaves on seedlings as well as on mature plants, ternate, acicular, 5-8 mm long, 1.5-2 mm wide at decurrent base, keeled, pungent, epistomatic mature leaves decussate, imbricate, rhombic to ovate-rhombic, (ob)lanceolate, -5 mm long on older branchlets, decurrent at base, with free, recurved apices or appressed, with entire margins, on ultimate branchlets 2-3 mm long; glands usually inconspicuous and inactive, sometimes brownish; scale leaves amphistomatic, with stomata in two tapering lines from base to apex; colour shining green or yellowish-green; resin cavity single; foliage with a foetid odour when crushed. Male strobili: numerous, solitary, terminal or subterminal, ovoid-globose, 2-3(-3.5) mm long, pale yellowish to yellowish-brown; microsporophylls 8-12, peltate, with rounded, thin, hyaline and often erose margins, with 4 relatively large pollen sacs. Female cones: numerous, solitary, axillatry and subterminal, sessile or with 3-4 mm long peduncles with tiny scale leaves; young strobili spheroid, with 6 distinct umbos, 2-3 mm diam., bluish-green; mature cones globose, 5-13mm diam., dark blue or blackish, pruinose; seed scales (4-)6, in decussate pairs of unequal size, entirely fused with bracts and with each other, smooth or slightly rugose in dried specimens, with a minute umbo as an extension of the bract, 0.5 mm except on the two basal scales, the interior resinous, becoming more or less woody. Seeds: 1-2(-3) per cone, ovoid-globose or often nearly hemispherical, more or less connate, appearing as one, large, 5-7 mm diam., pale brown (seed anatomy in: Orlova and Kerimov 1982)" (Farjon 1992).

Distribution and Ecology

Albania, Macedonia, in Greece southward to the Peloponnesos, on Mt Athos and on Thásos, on Cyprus and in Lebanon, across Asiatic Turkey (but rare or absent on the interior plateau) and the SE Caucasus to the coast of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan; also along the coast of the Black Sea near Novorossiysk and in the Crimea (Farjon 1992). Hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

"Juniperus foetidissima occupies largely the same habitats as J. excelsa subsp. excelsa and often grows mixed with it. Its altitudinal range is also similar, from near sea level on the coast of the Black Sea near Novorossiysk to c. 2000 m in Anatolia. In the Caucasus it reaches 1600 m, on Cyprus it is restricted to a belt of the Troodos Mountains between 1500-1950 m. Lower limits may in many places be effected by grazing pressures. Like J. excelsa subsp. excelsa it grows on dry, rocky slopes, with shallow, gravelly soils. Annual precipitation varies between 400-1000 mm in different localities. J. foetidissima seems to be slightly more tolerant to dryness and heat than J. excelsa subsp. excelsa in some areas where both taxa are found. In mixed forest it grows in open places, in Turkey with e.g. Abies cilicica, Cedrus libani, Cupressus sempervirens, Pinus nigra, J. excelsa subsp. excelsa, J. drupacea, J. oxycedrus and Quercus coccifera " (Farjon 1992).

"On Mount Pindus in Greece var. pindicola Formanek occurs, differing from the type in its fruit which is wrinkled and tips of lower scales look like umbos" (Vidakovic 1991).

Big tree

Some very large reported specimens (IDS 1989) include:


The Aslan Ardic (Lion Juniper), 347 cm dbh and 25 m tall, was reportedly ring-counted at 1,700 years (IDS 1989).





"In Eurasia, an increased adaptation to continentality can be observed through the taxa J. excelsa subsp. excelsa, J. foetidissima, J. excelsa subsp. polycarpos, and J. semiglobosa. The more equatorial distribution of J. procera ensures a less extreme range of seasonal temperatures, as well as a climate where more moisture is generally available. The distribution of at least two species is also generally connected with major orogenetic events. The East African distribution of J. procera concurs largely with the volcanic uplands adjacent to and associated with the Great Rift systems, along which this species has reached 18°08' S. J. semiglobosa, the most distinct species taxonomically, is a true high altitude species of the mountains in Central Asia. While it crosses a relatively important floristic barrier to the SE, its limit in that direction is nevertheless climatically determined. Increased precipitation levels prevent its eastward expansion, which may be of relatively recent date connected with the rapid uplift of the Karakoram Range (1500 m since the last ice age and still in progress); it is not known from Nepal. For the most part, the geographical ranges found for [these] taxa ... coincide well with the floristic (sub-)regions and provinces as defined by Takhtajan (1986)" (Farjon 1992).


International Dendrology Society. Year Book 1989.

See also

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

Takhtajan, A. L. 1986. Floristic regions of the world (trans. T. Crovello). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Last Modified 2012-11-23