Botanical Inspiration Day #28: The tenacity of Juniperus occidentalis australis or The Sierra Juniper.
Elfin woods are trees that survive on poor soil in the subalpine zone above tree line. They often become “krummholz” which is German for crooked wood, stunted and twisted in form. Tree seedlings may germinate on the lee side of rocks and grow only as high as the rock provides wind protection. Well-established krummholz trees may be several hundred to a thousand years old.
I asked my brother to source a Sierra Juniper for my December botanical inspirations. He and my niece took on the job like true nature warriors, snowshoeing high and dry to provide this homage to the ever tenacious and lovable Sierra Juniper.
All Photos and prose by Dr. Mark Burhenne © 2013
The Sierra Juniper is my favorite tree. It defies the tree form norm and marches to a different drummer in the tree world.
Hard to find, stands alone, never in a grove with others,
look for the most unlikely place among rocks, and you will find a few.
Steep, rocky and always a good view of the horizon when you stand next to these old soldiers.
They are tenacious survivors, second only to the bristlecone pine.
This tree is no stranger to adulation, but it will never lead you on,
this is the tree hugger’s tree.
The Sierra Juniper has always been about “between a rock and a hard place” —
they do impossibly grow out of rocks and next to even bigger rocks,
measuring time in geological units.
Reptiles have long mastered the art of longevity: the very ends and most exposed parts of the Juniper look reptilian.
Redundancy is the Juniper’s mantra: there is never just one trunk.
There will always be dead parts on a Juniper: the tree will just wrap around these parts and continue to thrive.