Juniperus communis L.

Common juniper

Family: Cupressaceae
54º 34.957N
5º 55.859W

The tree tag number relates to the black tree-maintenance tags, usually fixed on the 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 of which the adult needles are adpressed and the Juniperus group that does not produce typically adult foliage; the needles remain projecting away from the stem in groups of three. 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, and pose problems for taxonomists, ie there 52-67 species depending on the authority. 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.

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2017. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.