Common Juniper (Juniperus communis)

About

Common Juniper is a sprawling, evergreen shrub that tends to grow in colonies on chalk downland, moorland, rocky slopes and coastal heaths. Its two favoured habitats are quite different: in the north it grows on acid soils on cold, rainy moorland alongside heather and Bilberry; in the south it prefers the hot, dry, calcium-rich soils of downland. It has a long history of folklore and myth and was hung outside the house at Hallowe'en to ward off evil spirits.

How to identify

Common Juniper is a very spiny bush: the blue-green leaves are actually stiffened into needles. On female plants, the green flowers ripen to blackish-blue berries.

Size

Height: up to 5m

When to see them

January - December

Conservation status

Classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Distribution

Widespread, but nowhere common.

Where to see them

Addiewell Bing, Balnaguard Glen, Belmaduthy Dam, Ben Mor Coigach, East Lammermuir Deans, Erraid Wood, Grey Hill Grasslands, Isle of Eigg, Knowetop Lochs, Linn Dean

Did you know?

Berries from native Common Junipers were once widely used by UK distilleries to flavour gin, but now berries now tend to be imported. However, native berries are still used for cooking game.

 

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