Common Juniper

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Common juniper

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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.

Top facts

Stats

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.

What to look for

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.

Where to find

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.