Explorer Corps Marker: Cache County

Find the Marker

The Cache County marker is located near the start of the Jardine Juniper Trail at the Wood Camp Campground on Highway 89, east of Logan.

GPS 41°47’53.4408”N 111°38’49.7004”W

Dig Deeper

In 1923, Utah State University student Maurice Blood Linford was hiking around the forests of Logan Canyon when he noticed something unusual in the juniper groves. There, among the other trees, was one juniper that clearly stood out among the rest. It seemed older, more mature, and so Linford took a photo to display at USU. The tree in the picture, dendrologists soon realized, was a truly exceptional specimen – the Jardine juniper.

In scientific terms, the Jardine juniper belongs to a species called Rocky Mountain juniper, or Juniperus scopulorum. These evergreens take on an almost cone-like shape, generally growing about 30 feet high and more than three feet wide. But the Jardine juniper that Linford discovered was bigger. Much bigger.  This individual tree measures about 40 feet tall and more than 23 feet around. Clearly it had been growing for a long time, but how long?

Based on its size, the Jardine juniper was originally estimated to be more than 3,000 years old. If true, that would have made the tree the oldest known juniper in the world. But just guessing the tree’s age from the outside wouldn’t do. Experts who study trees often take cores in order to count tree rings – a record of growth through the years – to more accurately determine the tree’s age. When cored, the Jardine juniper was found to be nearly 1,500 years old.

Think about what was happening 1,500 years ago. “While this tree was just a seedling,” says NHMU Garret Herbarium curator Mitchell Power, “the Byzantine Empire was thriving and the Goths were busy sacking Rome.” The people who lived in Utah at that point were not settlers, but Native American peoples. But what to name such an ancient and important tree? The Jardine juniper got its name from William Marion Jardine, a former student of the Utah State Agricultural College that Linford attended and had been U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The name has stuck through the years as people continue to seek out the trailhead that leads to the forest the tree calls home.

The fact that the Jardine juniper is still alive and such a prominent part of Logan Canyon is a wonder. It’s difficult to tell exactly why the tree has been able to live so much longer than other Rocky Mountain junipers, but as Power explains, there are a few factors that certainly helped. “Junipers have been shown to contain anti-fungal compounds in their heartwood, making their trunks less susceptible to rot and invasion.” The fact that the Jardine juniper grows in a dry climate, too, helps the tree resist rot.

The tree’s perch probably helped, too. “The Jardine juniper may have escaped fire due to its location,” Power says. The tree grows from the edge of a limestone cliff, far from other trees. That acts as a natural firebreak that prevents the Jardine juniper from catching even if other nearby trees do catch fire. And even in such an event, the Jardine juniper is now so big that its thick trunk would help stave off fire. The tree is truly a survivor, 1,500 years young.

Want to Go Farther?

Hike the Jardine Juniper Trail to get a glimpse of this amazing tree. The 11-mile round-trip trail starts as an ‘out-and-back’ path leading to a loop section around the Jardine Juniper tree.