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Juniper

Juniperis communis

Juniper berries.

Description

A prickly, sprawling evergreen shrub in the Cypress family with short spiky leaves.

Juniper blooms with small yellow flowers, followed by ‘berries’ – actually fleshy cones, that start green but ripen to blue-black.

These are famously used to flavour gin and certain meat dishes particularly game and venison. Used whole they impart a bitter, crunchy bite to savoury dishes. In fact, the word “Gin” derives from either genièvre or jenever – the French and Dutch words for “juniper”

Juniper is dioecious, which means that it is either male or female, unlike most tree species. The form of individual bushes varies from being low and prostrate at the one extreme to cylindrical and conical at the other.

Close up photo of a Juniper berry on a bush

Did you know?

  • Juniper dates back 10,000 years and was one of the first tree species to colonise the UK after the last Ice Age.
  • Juniper berries are used to flavour gin and have other uses like firewood or as a substitute for barbed wire.
  • Juniper plants take at least seven years to grow and are vulnerable to being eaten by animals.
  • In the 19th century, large tracts of Juniper were harvested for fuel for illicit trade of unlicensed whisky stills
  • It has also been called Bastard killer as the berries were swallowed to procure abortions. Its reputation as an abortifacient has echoes in the Victorian belief that gin (aptly called ‘Mother’s ruin’) was effective for the same purpose.
gloved hand holding juniper berries with the reverse the red blog

What is Plantlife doing?

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.

 
Read more

a field of grass field with a variety of flowers in pink, purple, yellow and white

How can I help?

Become a grassland guardian and help restore 10,000 hectares of species-rich grassland by 2030. Donate today.

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