Juniper

Juniperus communis

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.

Where to find it

Widespread, but nowhere common.

Habitats

When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Populations of Common Juniper have declined massively over recent years, and some colonies are now extinct. This decline is due to a number of factors including unsuitable grazing, clearance and habitat loss. The Wildlife Trusts manage many nature reserves for the benefit of rare wildlife, including plants like Juniper. Ensuring correct grazing and scrub clearance to allow young bushes to develop, and planting new colonies, are just some of the ways we're helping. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from scrub-cutting to stockwatching.

Species information

Common name
Juniper
Latin name
Juniperus communis
Category
Trees and shrubs
Statistics
Height: up to 5m
Conservation status
Classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.