Oldfield Common Juniper

Juniperus communis var. depressa

Description & Overview

Oldfield Common Juniper is a Wisconsin native groundcover evergreen. It’s a cold hardy, shrubby evergreen which inhabits the sandy hills of the Kettle Moraine and the clay bluffs along Lake Michigan. Ours are produced from locally collected seed. This plant is tolerant of poor, shallow soils, and sunny, windy sites. Its green-needle foliage and blue seed cones (‘berries’) are characteristic of Junipers. This native plant is slow growing, long-lived, and valuable to both wildlife and their ecosystems. May also be known as Canadian Juniper.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: less than 4 feet
Mature Spread: 10 feet
Growth Rate: Very Slow
Growth Form: Prostrate, low-growing, spreading habit – the typical form the plant has in Wisconsin
Light Requirements: Full Sun
Site Requirements: Rocky-sandy, infertile slopes, neutral-calcareous soils
Flower: Dioecious. 1/4″, small, yellowish, inconspicuous (strobili). Pollinated through wind dispersal.
Bloom Period: April-June
Foliage: Green, prickly (awl-shaped), needle-like juvenile foliage grows in whorls of 3 on the stem. Leaves are 3/5″ long and display a white (glaucous) band on the upper surface with a green margin. Leaves are fragrant and persist for 3 years.
Fall Color: Plum hues in fall. Bronze-yellow in winter.
Fruit Notes: Round seed cones (.25-.5”) emerge green, ripen to dark blue with a waxy coat, resembling ‘berries’. Each cone consists of 2-3 seeds.

Suggested Uses:

  • Long-term restoration: After disturbance, soils are at their most vulnerable to erosion. A ‘quick’ restoration job can include Oldfield Common Juniper but don’t expect immediate results and exponential growth.
  • Slope stabilization: The spreading habit of this plant can be useful as an evergreen ground cover for sandy or rocky soils, waste sites, and windy sites. A great option for landowners with waterfront property and bank erosion concerns.
  • Wildlife food and cover for game species, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts: Can be used in the management of land for hunting purposes, increasing wildlife viewing opportunities, and promoting growth of native species in a natural setting.
  • Parking lot islands: Highly salt tolerant, very little to no shade, and poor soils are great conditions for this plant to thrive in.
  • Under power lines: The low, sprawling habit of this shrub can easily grow under power lines without interfering with accessibility.

Salable #2 containers of Oldfield Common Juniper. Pictures taken late May with new growth.

Salable #3 Containers available at Johnson's Nursery. Pictures taken after new growth has hardened off.

New foliage growth and fall/winter color comparison.

Wildlife Value:

Seed cones are prized by birds, including the American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Cedar Waxwings, and Wild Turkeys! They provide a critical source of food for birds and small mammals in winter. Due to the prickly nature of its foliage, small mammals and birds may use it for nesting habitat, while deer usually prefer other, less-prickly options.

At least one native insect feeds on the leaves and other parts of Oldfield Common Juniper: Evergreen Bagworm (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis). Other moth species also use this evergreen as feed, but those species are typically found in the eastern US.

Maintenance Tips:

Overwatering and poor drainage are the main causes for concern. After establishment, Oldfield Common Juniper is drought tolerant and requires little, if any, pruning. Take care when siting this evergreen; since it prefers full sun, site it further away from encroaching forests so it doesn’t become shaded out.

Oldfield Common Juniper thrives in nutrient poor conditions – don’t over-fertilize!

SOURCE: MIKE YANNY. Natural, restoration Oldfield Common Juniper.

SOURCE: MIKE YANNY. Oldfield Common Juniper berries and natural planting.


  • It doesn’t tolerate high humidity and heat – don’t plant this in USDA zones higher than 6.
  • It’s susceptible to Juniper blight, but allowing good ventilation and avoid overcrowding helps prevent this.
  • Occasionally voles will feed on the bark in winter.
  • May collect leaves and debris.

Leaf Lore:

Oldfield Common Juniper produces an edible fruit. The consistency of the fruit when ripe is soft, mealy, and sweet with resinous flesh. The fruit has been traditionally made into a syrup, flavor for gin, and spicing up culinary dishes. Medicinally, the fruit was used as a diuretic and to treat rheumatic pains, scurvy, and fevers. Juniper was burned in the Middle Ages to cleanse the air and ward off the Plague.

Does not tolerate wildfires because the resinous and flammable foliage.

This plant is listed as ‘Threatened’ in Illinois.

Oldfield Common Juniper can develop a picturesque windswept look with age, usually seen on the bluffs of Lake Michigan.

Companion Plants:

Pair this native evergreen with other plants that thrive in full sun, don’t grow too tall (so as not to shade out the juniper), and prefer drier sites. Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Bush Cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticose), Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa), and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) would grow quite happily alongside Oldfield Common Juniper – plus they’re all native!

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