The Western or Sierra juniper (Juniperas occidentalis) is known for size and longevity, especially in the Stanislaus National Forest. One of the oldest known Western junipers known in the world is named Bennett after the naturalist Clarence Bennett, who devoted much of his life to the study of the tree. The juniper can rival the famed bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata), which is known to be almost 5,000 years old. The Bennett juniper in Stanislaus is estimated to be more than 3,000 years old, though no one is certain. A fallen branch 3 inches in diameter contained 550 annual rings. It took close to 1,000 years for the tree to add the outer foot to its trunk. With its deep, heavy root system, the juniper can withstand the hostile Sierra winters. The tree clings to granite and can be found on rocky summits, where it is often scarred by lightning. The juniperís short, conical, and often-twisted trunk is particularly photogenic. To find the Bennett juniper, drive east on Highway 108 in Tuolumne County 43 miles from Sonora. Turn right on Forest Road 5N01 and follow the signs.
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