The Gymnosperm Database

The Fifth International Colloquium on thuriferous juniper (Juniperus thurifera L.) "The Thuriferous Juniper and other Mediterranean Cupressaceae: Uses, Ecosystem Services, Threats and Conservation” will be held in Marrakesh (Morocco) on April 30 - May 4, 2014.

Juniperus thurifera

Source, Montes and Bertaudiere (2005) [T. Gauquelin].

Juniperus thurifera

J. thurifera covering the landscape in Spain [R. Macaskie].

Juniperus thurifera

Saplings in an oak woodland, Spain [R. Macaskie].

Juniperus thurifera

A mature tree and its bark, Spain [R. Macaskie].

Juniperus thurifera

A sapling, Spain [R. Macaskie].


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Conservation status

Juniperus thurifera

Linnaeus 1753, p. 1039

Common names

Genévrier thurifère (Montes and Bertaudiere 2005); cedro de España, trabina, sabina blanca, enebro, aoual, taoualt, araar, Spanish juniper, incense juniper (Farjon 2005).

Taxonomic notes


Type: Spain: Aragon: Teruel ("Mansana, Camarena"), E. Reverchon 788 (neotype BM). "A search for original material that could serve as type of Juniperus thurifera L. was undertaken with the help of C. Jarvis at BM but was unsuccessful. A neotype not in conflict with anything stated in the protologue has therefore been selected" (Farjon 2005).

Farjon (2005) reduces the two described varieties, gallica (in France) and africana (in North Africa), to synonymy on the grounds that the described characters overlap with specimens of the type variety described by the respective authors.


Dioecious evergreen shrubs, or trees up to 20 m tall. Crown pyramidal in youth, later becoming broad, rounded, often irregular. Trunks single or multiple, often branching near the ground, up to 200 cm dbh. Bark thin, dark brown, with age weathering gray-brown, becoming scaly, and exfoliating in strips. Structural branches dense, spreading or ascending. Foliage branches spreading or drooping, branchlets 1-1.3 mm thick, more or less quadrangular, covered with scale leaves in 4 highest orders of branching, persistent. Leaves light green, decussate, imbricate, decurrent, scale leaves on ultimate branchlets all appressed, on ultimate branchlets 1.3-2.7 × 0.7-1 mm, ovate-rhombic, margins entire or hyaline-erose. Scale leaves on older branchlets and whip shoots larger, to 8-10 × 2.5 mm, lanceolate, apiculate, abaxial stomata in two small areas near the base, adaxial stomata in two bands converging to the apex, gland central but usually inactive, in slight depression. Pollen cones terminal, solitary, subglobose, 2-3 mm long, yellow-green maturing to light brown; microsporophylls 10-12. Seed cones terminal, growing in two seasons, consisting of 2-3 pairs of spreading but incurved bracts fusing to form a subglobose cone 7-8(-10) mm diam., black-blue or purple-black at maturity. Seeds (1-)2-3 per cone, irregular in size and shape in a single cone, 3-5 x 3-4.5 mm, triangular or flattened, with shallow pits and grooves, lustrous light brown, with a dull tan hilum at base. Cotyledons 2, 20-30 × 3-4 mm. Juvenile leaves on seedlings and reappearing on mature plants, in whorls of 4 on lower stem, on branchlets decussate, acicular, 3-6 mm long with a green adaxial midrib, acute-pungent (Farjon 2005).

Distribution and Ecology

S France, N and SE Spain, Morocco, N Algeria, at 300-2400(-3300) m elevation. In Spain it primarily occurs on calcareous soils, but in Morocco (Atlas Mtns.) it grows on varied by usually very rocky soils. The climate is continental, semiarid, with cold winters (Atlas Mts.) to continental Mediterranean, with long dry summers (Farjon 2005). Hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

See Montes and Bertaudiere (2005) for details, a map, and photos showing habitat. In the High Atlas Mountains of Algeria, it is the only tree species at the upper tree line (about 2500 m elevation, with isolated specimens found above 3000 m). At the lowest altitudes, Quercus ilex is generally associated with J. thurifera. In the Middle Atlas mountains, J. thurifera is often associated with Cedrus atlantica (Nicolas Montes email 1998.03.05).

Conservation status: In Europe, the species is generally stable, but is vulnerable to habitat loss as woodlands change to forest after abandonment of traditional land use systems. In the High Atlas of Morocco, heavy grazing and browsing pressures have caused damage to living trees and prevented regeneration (Gauquelin et al. 2000).

Like most junipers, the seeds are dispersed by animals, including birds and livestock; both are highly effective vectors in semiarid lands. The foliage is eaten by sheep (R.M. Clegg email 2009.02.20).

In Spain (Guadalajara) it occurs with J. oxycedrus and various species of oaks.

Big tree

An individual 19 m tall with a girth (due to its multistemmed form) of 16 m, located in the Middle Atlas, near the "Col du Zad," about 50km N of Ifrane (Nicolas Montes email 1998.03.05).


Ongoing dendrochronological research (Montes and Bertaudiere 2005) has not yet established precise ages, but the maximum is probably more than 500 years (Nicolas Montes email 1998.03.05).


Montes and Bertaudiere (2005) provide information on ongoing research.


In France and Spain, J. thurifera was traditionally used for construction, firewood and special uses such as fencing and tools. The foliage served as fodder for donkeys and goats. These types of use are still prevalent in North Africa (Farjon 2005). See also remarks in Montes and Bertaudiere (2005).


Montes and Bertaudiere (2005) provide clues on where to find native specimens. Several stands occur in the High and Middle Atlas mountains (Nicolas Montes email 1998.03.05).



Gauquelin, T., J.E. Asmodé, and G. Largier (eds.). 2000. Le Genévrier thurifère (Juniperus thurifera L.) dans la bassin occidental de la Méditerranée: systematique, écologie, dynamique et gestion. Proceedings of an international symposium, 26-27 September 1997, Marignac, Haute-Garonne, France. Les Dossiers Forestieres No. 6.

Montes, Nicolas and Valèrie Bertaudiere. 1999. Le Genévrier Thurifère (Juniperus thurifera L.) au Maroc: Une Espëce en danger., last accessed 2009.02.24.

See also

Last Modified 2017-12-29