Common Juniper

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Common Juniper

Scientific name: Juniperus communis
A sprawling, spiny evergreen, Common Juniper is famous for its traditional role in gin-making. Once common on downland, moorland and coastal heathland, it is now much rarer due to habitat loss.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 5m

Conservation status

Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December

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.

Distribution

Widespread, but uncommon.

Did you know?

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

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.