Skip to main content

Across our downlands, this iconic shrub has failed to regenerate for the past 60 years and as the bushes reach the end of their lives, whole colonies are dying out.

Juniper had been lost from nearly 50% of its historic range and without vital conservation work, is likely to become extinct in lowland England within the next 50 years, in turn impacting on the species it supports, such as Goldcrest, Fieldfare and Song Thrush.

Plantlife is leading the fight to save Juniper

In the Saving England’s Lowland Juniper project, Plantlife joined forces with landowners, supported by Natural England, to revitalise Juniper across southern England. 48 patches of land at nine sites in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire were scraped back to create a grassland habitat suitable for Juniper to regenerate. These efforts focused on hotspots where Juniper is in rapid decline and took place in partnership with the Wylye Valley Farmers Group. Early successional habitat suitable for Juniper regeneration has been created as a result, with the land then seeded with Juniper collected from nearby bushes.

Revitalising Juniper in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire

The project areas in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire have been selected as they are key areas on our southern chalk grassland where Juniper population patches can be re-established and where clusters of populations occur in close proximity.

This is the first time Juniper has been regenerated in a near-natural manner on a landscape scale anywhere in the British Isles. It comes following a successful trial, which saw more the 200 new Juniper bushes regenerate within ten years on land scraped by Plantlife in 2009.

The bare ground will also benefit 16 other threatened and scarce plant species which colonise early successional habitat including:

  • Kidney Vetch
  • Autumn Gentian
  • Carline Thistle
  • Yellow-wort
  • Common Rock-rose
  • Fairy Flax
  • Harebell and four species of Orchid.
A gloved hand picks Juniper berries

Juniper, Juniperus communis, is a prickly, sprawling evergreen shrub in the Cypress family with short spiky leaves. It blooms with small yellow flowers, followed by ‘berries’ (which are actually fleshy cones) that start green but ripen to blue-black.

It is unusual in its choice of habitats which contract greatly between the north, where it grows on acid soils in cold and rainy places, and the south, where it favours hot, dry calcium-rich soils.

The Saving England’s Lowland Juniper project was funded primarily by Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, with support from Formula Botanica.

We are continuously looking for further funding and support on the development of grassland habitat.