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.
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.
Height: up to 5m
Classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Widespread, but nowhere common.
When to see
January – December
- 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.