Common Juniper

  

(Juniperus communis)

Common juniper is a needle bearing evergreen, growing circumpolar (around the world in the north). It's quite variable in form, from a small tree in Europe to usually a side-spreading low shrub in North America; very widespread and having the largest range of any woody plant worldwide. Common juniper grows in dry areas, rocky slopes and clearings, is very cold hardly even to the tree line and sometimes slightly beyond; very long lived, male plants can exceed 2000 years.

Leaves have whorls of short, sharp needles and a white stripe of stomata on the undersides. Either male or female cones are held by different plants (dioecious). Green Berry-like cones turn Dark blue when ripe, are fragrant, and have a powdered coating. Berries take three years to mature, are often eaten by birds which digest and disperse the seeds.

Common juniper is often used commercially for the landscaping. Many cultivars exist with different shapes including cone, prostrate, and tree form. Very easy to grow and tolerant of dry sites with poor soil, making it a popular choice for low maintenance borders or groundcover. Common juniper is highly medicinal and both the berries and needles can be used. Juniper berry tea has been used for colds, bladder, and stomach issues. The berries or leaves can also be used topically as a poultice, salve, or cream for joint or muscle aches. Berries are often crushed and used to flavor meats, soups, and stews similar to how pepper would be used. Although highly nutritious and medicinal it's important just to consume small amounts. Avoid prolonged use, same goes if pregnant or with liver disease.