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Juniperus recurva D. Don

Himalayan Juniper

Modern name

Juniperus recurva Buch.-Ham. ex D.Don

A tree 30 to 40 ft high, or a shrub, usually broadly pyramidal in shape, and clothed to the ground with branches, which are curved downwards at the ends; bark brown, peeling off in thin flakes. Leaves in whorls of threes, 18 to 14 in. long, uniformly awl-shaped, all pointing forwards and rather appressed to the branchlet which they completely hide, upper (inner) surface very concave and glaucous, outer surface dull green changing to brown before the leaf falls, grooved along the middle. Fruits egg-shaped, 34 in. long, brown the first year, ripening to a dark purple the second; one-seeded.

Native of the E. Himalaya, N. Burma, and W. Yunnan; introduced in 1830. A graceful tree and distinct, its value in gardens is decreased by the dull colour of the foliage, giving very frequently the impression of bad health. Male and female flowers occur on the same tree. It has lived out-of-doors at Kew for many years, but requires the moister conditions of the northern and western parts of the British Isles to be seen at its best.

The most notable specimens recorded recently are: Scorrier, Cornwall, 46 × 5 ft at 3 ft (1959); Mamhead, Devon, 49 × 4 ft (1963); Bicton, Devon, 43 × 234 ft (1959); Hafordunas, Denbighs., 46 × 434 ft (1960); Cortachy Castle, Angus, 51 × 514 ft (1962); Abercairney, Perths., 44 × 3 ft (1962). At Castlewellan in Northern Ireland there is a tree 49 ft high with the main stem 312 ft in girth and another with pendulous branches, 39 × 534 ft at 1 ft. In Eire there are specimens of comparable size to the above at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, and Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow.

cv. ‘Castlewellan’. – This name has been given to the clone descended from the beautiful pendulously branched tree at Castlewellan, mentioned above.

var. coxii (A. B. Jacks.) Melville J. coxii A. B. Jacks. – The following three paragraphs are taken unchanged from previous editions, where this juniper was given the rank of species. But it is now generally agreed that it should rank as a variety of J. recurva:

This fine juniper was found by Messrs E. H. M. Cox and R. Farrer in Upper Burma in 1920 and was introduced by them, but it had been discovered some six years previously by Kingdon Ward. It is an evergreen tree 80 to 100 ft high with a single erect stem and graceful weeping branches, and Mr Cox estimates that the girth of the largest tree is 30 ft or more. The habit is narrowly pyramidal, the branchlets slender and rich dark green; the leaves are 14 to 12 in. long, 116 in. or less wide, borne in threes, prickly pointed, with the two longitudinal strips of stomata on the upper side yellowish rather than glaucous and divided by a green median line. Fruits egg-shaped, 38 in. long, dark purplish brown, and each contains one seed only.

Up to the publication of Mr Jackson’s name in the New Flora and Silva, Vol. 5, p. 31, in October 1932, there was a disposition amongst botanists to regard this tree as a variety of J. recurva. But I think its enormous size and single stem (J. recurva is always more or less branched at the base), its very pendulous habit, and its longer, more outstanding leaves set further apart, amply justify its ranking as a species.

Farrer describes this tree as growing always at altitudes of over 10,000 ft in a region ‘where the summer is wet and sunless, the winters of Alpine cold, and the springs late, ungenial and chilly’. This species is quite hardy at Kew, but it succeeds better in the warmer, softer counties of the south and west. In the woods at Exbury, near the Solent, it is growing extremely well and has borne fruit there. There seems to be no reason why it should not develop in such places not only into the finest of all junipers (which it is naturally) but into one of the most beautiful of all conifers. According to Farrer the wood is ‘close and fine in grain, immortal, and of the most delicious fragrance, either fresh or burned’. It is probably to its ‘immortal’ quality that is due the love of the Chinese for this wood for coffin-making. The prices they are willing to pay for it make it one of the most costly of timbers.

The specimen at Exbury mentioned above now measures 41 × 212 + 134 ft (1970). Others are: Hergest Croft, Heref., 34 × 2 ft and 32 × 214 ft (1969); Haldon Grange, Exeter, 26 × 114 ft (1967); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 24 × 212 ft and 24 × 214 ft (1966).

cv. ‘Embley Park’. – Leaves bright green; young stems yellowish green. Propagated from a plant at Embley Park, Hants, which was probably raised from seeds collected by Forrest in Yunnan. The three plants there have also been referred to under the name J. recurva var. viridis (H. G. Hillier, Dwarf Conifers (1964), p. 39; H. J. Welch, Dwarf Conifers (1966), p. 201).

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

Plants raised at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, from seeds of J. fargesii collected during Dr H. H. Yu’s expedition to Yunnan, produced three plants very like what had previously been acquired as J. squamata var. fargesii, while others seemed to be intermediate between J. recurva and J. squamata (Int. Dendr. Soc. Year Book 1972, p. 9). Roy Lancaster has noted that in east Nepal too these two species are very variable and seem to intergrade. But see the remarks under J. squamata var. fargesii, page 495-6.

specimens: Mamhead, Devon, 49 × 4 ft (1970); Scorrier, Cornwall, 50 × 3 ft (1973); Hafodunas, Gwyn., 59 × 634 + 534 ft (1984); Keir House, Perths., 52 × 412 ft (1970); Castlewellan, Co. Down, 59 × 334 + 312 ft (1976); Caledon, Co. Tyrone, 62 × 434 + 312 ft (1985); Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Eire, 60 × 614 + 5 ft (1985); and of var. coxii: Sheffield Park, Sussex, 35 × 314 ft (1982); Exbury, Hants, 41 × 212 +134 ft (1970); Hergest Croft, Heref., 40 × 234 ft and 36 × 112 ft (1978); Haldon Grange, Exeter, 30 × 112 ft (1973); Bodnant, Gwyn., 33 × 414 ft (1981); Castlewellan, Co. Down, 48 × 634 ft at 1 ft (1982); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 31 × 234 ft (1975).



Other species in the genus