Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive
This is one of a series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens compiled by the Friends group. The tree tag number relates to the small aluminium discs, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.
The junipers are spread over most of the temperate and sub-arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. There are two main groups of juniper species – the Sabina group that has adpressed adult needles and the Juniperus group that never produces adult foliage, the needles remain sticking out from the stem in threes. All the junipers have berry-like female cones which start a blue colour and may eventually turn brown. The female cones are the key ingredient for flavouring gin which gets its name from the juniper – jeniperus in Vulgar Latin, genevres in old French, then jenever in Dutch which was borrowed by the English who shortened it to gin!
We have one native juniper species in Ireland – Juniperus communis ssp communis which grows in many limestone areas such as Fermanagh and the Burren. Juniper was one of the first plants to spread in Ireland as the ice of the last ice-age retreated.
The junipers are very variable. There 52-67 species depending on the botanist. The example in the Belfast Botanic Gardens that we illustrate here belongs to the Juniperus section Juniperus. The bluish colour of the foliage suggests it may be a cultivar of garden origin.