Juniperus communis

Juniperus communis, the common juniper, is a species of conifer in the genus Juniperus, in the family Cupressaceae. It has the largest geographical range of any woody plant, with a circumpolar distribution throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic south in mountains to around 30°N latitude in North America, Europe and Asia. Relict populations can be found in the Atlas Mountains of Africa.

Juniperus communis
Juniperus communis subsp. communis
in the Netherlands
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Juniperus
Section: Juniperus sect. Juniperus
Subsection: Juniperus subsect. Juniperus
J. communis
Binomial name
Juniperus communis
Juniperus communis range map
Natural range world-wide
Juniperus communis North American range map 1
Natural range in North America


Prostrate specimens of Juniperus communis subsp. alpina, in Vitosha, Bulgaria

Juniperus communis is a small coniferous evergreen tree or shrub, very variable in form, ranging from 10 m (33 ft)—rarely 16 m (52 ft)—tall to a low, often prostrate spreading shrub in exposed locations. It has needle-like leaves in whorls of three; the leaves are green, with a single white stomatal band on the inner surface. It never attains adult foliage.[2]:55 It is dioecious, with male and female cones, which are wind pollinated, on separate plants.

The fruit are berry-like cones, initially green, ripening in 18 months to purple-black with a blue waxy coating; they are spherical, 4–12 mm (0.16–0.47 in) diameter, and usually have three (occasionally six) fleshy fused scales, each scale with a single seed. The seeds are dispersed when birds eat the cones, digesting the fleshy scales and passing the hard, unwinged seeds in their droppings. The male cones are yellow, 2–3 mm (0.079–0.118 in) long, and fall soon after shedding their pollen in March–April.[3][4][5]


As to be expected from the wide range, J. communis is very variable, with several infraspecific taxa; delimitation between the taxa is still uncertain, with genetic data not matching morphological data well.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

  • subsp. communis – Common juniper. Usually an erect shrub or small tree; leaves long, 8–20(–27) mm; cones small, 5–8 mm, usually shorter than the leaves; found at low to moderate altitude in temperate climates.
    • subsp. communis var. communis – Europe, most of northern Asia
    • subsp. communis var. depressa Pursh – North America, Sierra Nevada in California
    • subsp. communis var. hemisphaerica (J.Presl & C.Presl) Parl. – Mediterranean mountains
    • subsp. communis var. nipponica (Maxim.) E.H.Wilson – Japan (status uncertain, often treated as J. rigida var. nipponica)
  • subsp. alpina (Suter) Čelak. – alpine juniper (syn. J. c. subsp. nana, J. c. var. saxatilis Pallas, J. sibirica Burgsd.). Usually a prostrate ground-hugging shrub; leaves short, 3–8 mm; cones often larger, 7–12 mm, usually longer than the leaves; found in subarctic areas and high altitude alpine zones in temperate areas.
    • subsp. alpina var. alpina – Greenland, Europe and Asia
    • subsp. alpina var. megistocarpa Fernald & H.St.John – Eastern Canada (doubtfully distinct from var. alpina)
    • subsp. alpina var. jackii Rehder – Western North America (doubtfully distinct from var. alpina)

Some botanists treat subsp. alpina at the lower rank of variety, in which case the correct name is Juniperus communis var. saxatilis Pallas,[4] though the name Juniperus communis var. montana is also occasionally cited; others, primarily in eastern Europe and Russia, sometimes treat it as a distinct species J. sibirica Burgsd. (syn. J. nana Willd., J. alpina S.F.Gray).[11]

Juniperus communis is one of Ireland's longest established plants.[12]


The juniper berry oil is composed largely of monoterpene hydrocarbons such as α-pinene, myrcene, sabinene, limonene and β-pinene.[13]


Juniperus communis cones
Foliage and berries


Juniperus communis is cultivated in the horticulture trade and used as an evergreen ornamental shrub in gardens. The following cultivars gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993:[14]

  • Juniperus communis 'Compressa'[15]
  • Juniperus communis 'Green Carpet'[16] (prostrate shrub)
  • Juniperus communis 'Hibernica' (Irish juniper)[17]
  • Juniperus communis 'Repanda'[18] (prostrate shrub)


Juniper wood pieces and 1 cent coin
Juniperus communis wood pieces, with a U.S. penny for scale, showing the narrow growth rings of the species.

It is too small to have any general lumber usage. In Scandinavia, however, juniper wood is used for making containers for storing small quantities of dairy products such as butter and cheese, and also for making wooden butter knives. It was also frequently used for trenails in wooden shipbuilding by shipwrights for its tough properties.

In Estonia juniper wood is valued for its long lasting and pleasant aroma, very decorative natural structure of wood (growth rings) as well as good physical properties of wood due to slow growth rate of juniper and resulting dense and strong wood. Various decorative items (often eating utensils) are common in most Estonian handicraft shops and households.

According to the old tradition, on Easter Monday Kashubian (Northern Poland) boys chase girls whipping their legs gently with juniper twigs. This is to bring good fortune in love to the chased girls.


Its astringent blue-black seed cones, commonly known as "juniper berries", are too bitter to eat raw and are usually sold dried and used to flavour meats, sauces, and stuffings. They are generally crushed before use to release their flavour. Since juniper berries have a strong taste, they should be used sparingly. They are generally used to enhance meat with a strong flavour, such as game, including game birds, or tongue.

The cones are used to flavour certain beers and gin (the word "gin" derives from an Old French word meaning "juniper").[19] In Finland, juniper is used as a key ingredient in making sahti, a traditional Finnish ale. Also the Slovak alcoholic beverage Borovička and Dutch Genever are flavoured with juniper berry or its extract.

Juniper is used in the traditional farmhouse ales of Norway,[20] Sweden,[21] Finland,[22] Estonia, and Latvia. In Norway, the beer is brewed with juniper infusion instead of water, while in the other countries the juniper twigs are mainly used in the mash, as filters to prevent the crushed malts from clogging the outlet of the mashing tun. The use of juniper in farmhouse brewing has been common in much of northern Europe, seemingly for a very long time.[23]

Traditional medicine

Juniper berries have long been used as medicine by many cultures including the Navajo people.[24] Western American tribes combined the berries of Juniperus communis with Berberis root bark in a herbal tea. Native Americans also used juniper berries as a female contraceptive.[25]


Juniperus communis at Valjala on 2005-08-11

As the cones need more than a year to become ripe, both ripe and unripe cones can be seen together, as on this tree on Saaremaa, Estonia

Lüneburger Heide 006

Juniperus communis subsp. communis on Lüneburg Heath, Germany

Juniperus communis MF

Young shoots, Malá Fatra


  1. ^ Farjon, A. (2013). "Juniperus communis". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  2. ^ Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521707725.
  3. ^ a b Rushforth, K. (1987). Conifers. Helm ISBN 0-7470-2801-X.
  4. ^ a b c Adams, R. P. (2004). Junipers of the World: The genus Juniperus. Victoria: Trafford. ISBN 1-4120-4250-X.
  5. ^ a b Arboretum de Villardebelle: Juniperus
  6. ^ Flora Europaea: Juniperus communis
  7. ^ Adams, R. P., Pandey, R. N., Leverenz, J. W., Dignard, N., Hoegh, K., & Thorfinnsson, T. (2003). Pan-Arctic variation in Juniperus communis: Historical Biogeography based on DNA fingerprinting. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 31: 181-192 pdf file Archived 17 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Adams, R. P., & Pandey, R. N. (2003). Analysis of Juniperus communis and its varieties based on DNA fingerprinting. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 31: 1271-1278. pdf file Archived 17 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Adams, R. P., & Nguyen, S. (2007). Post-Pleistocene geographic variation in Juniperus communis in North America. Phytologia 89 (1): 43-57. pdf file
  10. ^ Den Virtuella Floran: Juniperus communis distribution
  11. ^ Association Ecosystem (Russia): Juniperus sibirica
  12. ^ Preston, S. J.; Wilson, C.; Jennings, S.; Provan, J.; McDonald, R. A. (2007). "The status of Juniperus communis L. in Northern Ireland in 2005". Ir. Nat. J. 28: 372–378.
  13. ^ Höferl, Martina; Stoilova, Ivanka; Schmidt, Erich; Wanner, Jürgen; Jirovetz, Leopold; Trifonova, Dora; Krastev, Lutsian; Krastanov, Albert (2014). "Chemical Composition and Antioxidant Properties of Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis L.) Essential Oil. Action of the Essential Oil on the Antioxidant Protection of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Model Organism". Antioxidants. 3 (1): 81–98. doi:10.3390/antiox3010081. PMC 4665443. PMID 26784665.
  14. ^ "AGM ornamentals". London: Royal Horticultural Society. 2015.
  15. ^ "Juniperus communis Compressa". London: Royal Horticultural Society. 2015.
  16. ^ "Juniperus communis Green Carpet". London: Royal Horticultural Society. 2015.
  17. ^ "Juniperus communis Hibernica". London: Royal Horticultural Society. 2015.
  18. ^ "Juniperus communis Repanda". London: Royal Horticultural Society. 2015.
  19. ^ Shorter Oxford English dictionary (6th ed.). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. 2007. p. 3804. ISBN 978-0199206872.
  20. ^ Brewing and beer traditions in Norway: The social anthropological background of the brewing industry, Odd Nordland, Universitetsforlaget, 1969.
  21. ^ Gotlandsdricka: Traditionell kultur som regional identitetssymbol, Anders Salomonsson, Skrifter utg. av Etnologiska sallskapet i Lund, 1979, ISBN 917400106X .
  22. ^ Vom Halm zum Fass: Die volkstumlichen Alkoholarmen : Getreidegetranke in Finnland, Matti Räsänen, Kansatieteellinen arkisto, 1975.
  23. ^
  24. ^ McCabe, Melvina; Gohdes, Dorothy; Morgan, Frank; Eakin, Joanne; Sanders, Margaret; Schmitt, Cheryl (2005). "Herbal Therapies and Diabetes Among Navajo Indians". Diabetes Care. 28 (6): 1534–1535. doi:10.2337/diacare.28.6.1534-a.
  25. ^ Tilford, Gregory L. (1997). Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. Mountain Press Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-87842-359-0.

Further reading

External links

Media related to Juniperus communis at Wikimedia Commons

Aethes rutilana

Aethes rutilana, the pale juniper webworm, is a moth of the family Tortricidae. It was described by Hübner in 1817. It is found in the whole of Europe and North America.The wingspan is 10–13 millimetres (0.39–0.51 in).

The larvae feed on Juniperus communis.

Argyresthia abdominalis

Argyresthia abdominalis is a moth of the family Yponomeutidae. It is found in most of Europe, except Ireland, the Iberian Peninsula, Slovenia, Greece, Ukraine and Lithuania.The wingspan is 7–9 mm.The larvae feed on Juniperus communis. A single larva mines out several leaves, feeding from the base to the tip. It migrates to the next leaf using a short corridor in the bark of the twig. Pupation takes place outside of the mine in a spinning on the twig. The larvae have an orange brown to spotted reddish brown body and a black head. They can be found from March to April.

Argyresthia aurulentella

Argyresthia aurulentella is a moth of the family Yponomeutidae. It is found in Northern Europe, Central Europe, western Russia and Macedonia.The wingspan is 7–9 mm. The moth flies from July to August.[1].

The larvae feed on Juniperus communis.

Argyresthia dilectella

Argyresthia dilectella is a moth of the family Yponomeutidae. It is found in Northern Europe and Central Europe.The wingspan is 7–9 mm. The moth flies from June to August. [1].

The larvae feed on Juniperus communis and Chamaecyparis.

Argyresthia praecocella

Argyresthia praecocella, the ochreous argent or juniper berry miner moth, is a moth of the family Yponomeutidae. It is found in most of Europe, except Ireland, Portugal and the Balkan Peninsula. It is also found in Russia and Japan.

The wingspan is 9–10 mm.The larvae feed on Juniperus communis and Juniperus rigida. They feed within the berries of their host plant. The species overwinters as a prepupa.

Argyresthia trifasciata

Argyresthia trifasciata, the juniper ermine moth, is a moth of the family Yponomeutidae. It is found in great parts of Europe, but originates from the Alps.

The wingspan is 7–10 mm. The moth flies from May to September. [1].

The larvae feed on Juniperus communis, Thuja, Chamaecyparis and Leylandcipres.

Calliteara abietis

Calliteara abietis is a moth of the family Erebidae. It is found from northern and central Europe, through Russia to Japan.

The wingspan is 35–52 mm.

The larvae feed on Picea abies, Larix sibirica and Juniperus communis.

Cydia cosmophorana

Cydia cosmophorana is a moth of the family Tortricidae. It is found from northern and central Europe to eastern Russia.

The wingspan is 9–13 mm. Adults are on wing in May and June. At times there is a small second generation in August. They frequent pine forests and plantations and are most active in hot sunshine at midday and in the afternoon.

The larvae primarily feed on Pinus sylvestris, but have also been recorded on Pinus strobus, Picea excelsa and Juniperus communis. The larvae live in resinous nodules and excrescences on the bark of the trunk and branches of the host plant, and also in galls and mines of other Tortricidae and Pyralidae species.

Dichomeris juniperella

Dichomeris juniperella, the Scotch crest, is a moth of the family Gelechiidae. It is found in almost all of Europe, except Ireland, the Benelux and the western and southern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The habitat consists of montane areas, including open woodland, mountainsides and gullies.The wingspan is 18–22 mm. The forewings are grey with two larger and one smaller central black spot. Adults are on wing from June to August in one generation per year.The larvae feed on the needles of Juniperus communis from under a silken spinning. They can be found from April to July.

Dichomeris marginella

The juniper webber (Dichomeris marginella) is a moth of the family Gelechiidae. It is found in Europe.

The wingspan is 14–16 mm. The moths are on wing from May to August depending on the location.

The larvae feed on Juniperus communis, Juniperus chinensis, Juniperus horizontalis, Juniperus recurva and Juniperus virginiana.

Eupithecia lanceata

Eupithecia lanceata is a moth of the family Geometridae. It is known from most of the Palearctic ecozone, except for the south. The habitat consists of pine forests.

The wingspan is 16–20 mm. There is one generation per year with adults on wing from April to May.

The larvae feed on Picea abies, Juniperus communis and Larix decidua. Larvae can be found in June. It overwinters as a pupa.

Gelechia sabinellus

The juniper gelechiid moth (Gelechia sabinellus) is a moth of the family Gelechiidae. It is known from most of Europe. It is an introduced species in Great Britain and North America through accidental introduction in garden junipers.

The wingspan is 15–18 mm. Adults are on wing in August.The larva feed on Juniperus species, including Juniperus communis.

Hisehope Burn Valley

Hisehope Burn Valley is a Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Derwentside district of Durham, England. It consists of two separate parcels of land, one on the west bank of Hisehope Burn, the other (and larger) a few hundred yards to the east, straddling the headwaters of another small burn. The site is some 3 km west of the village of Castleside and 1 km north of the Smiddy Shaw Reservoir. The larger area adjoins the Muggleswick, Stanhope and Edmundbyers Commons and Blanchland Moor SSSI.

The area adjacent to Hisehope Burn is predominantly a soligenous mire, with a sparse tree cover of downy birch, Betula pubescens, and alder, Alnus glutinosa; the mire is rich in sedges, Carex spp and bryophytes and contains several species that are localised in County Durham, including few-flowered spike rush, Eleocharis quinqueflora, grass-of-Parnassus, Parnassia palustris, sundew, Drosera rotundifolia, and lesser clubmoss, Selaginella selaginoides.The other area has one of the most extensive stands of juniper, Juniperus communis, in County Durham. Unlike most populations of juniper in Britain, in which regeneration is, at best, sparse, this community is freely-regenerating and has a diverse age composition.

Hunder Beck Juniper

Hunder Beck Juniper is a Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Teesdale district of south-west County Durham, England. It lies between the Balderhead and Blackton Reservoirs and adjoins the Cotherstone Moor SSSI to the south.

The site, which is situated on the east bank of the Hunder Beck, is notable as one of only three in County Durham where there are significant stands of upland juniper, Juniperus communis, scrub, a vegetation type which is particularly uncommon in the North Pennines.

On the upper slopes the juniper is associated with species-rich acid grassland, which is dominated by sheep's fescue, Festuca ovina, common bent, Agrostis capillaris, heath bedstraw, Galium saxatile, and tormentil, Potentilla erecta. A locally rare fern, moonwort, Botrychium lunaria is one of the less common species.Where the juniper is densest, the vegetation has a woodland character, with rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, and ash, Fraxinus excelsior, among the tree species present in small numbers, but though juniper of a variety of ages is present, there is no evidence of recent regeneration.On the shallower slopes, the juniper is associated with a species-poor acid flush vegetation that is dominated by rushes, Juncus spp.

Juniper Hill

Juniper Hill is a hamlet in the civil parish of Cottisford in Oxfordshire. Juniper Hill is just over 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Brackley in neighbouring Northamptonshire.

Juniper Hill was named after the common juniper, Juniperus communis, which originally grew in the area. In 1754 there were only two cottages in the area. However, on the 1841 census there are 16 households in the village, and by 1901 there were 25 households in the village. The local inn, established about 1860, was known as the 'Fox'.Flora Thompson was born in Juniper Hill in 1876. She fictionalised the hamlet as Lark Rise in her Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy.

Juniper berry

A juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by the various species of junipers. It is not a true berry but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance. The cones from a handful of species, especially Juniperus communis, are used as a spice, particularly in European cuisine, and also give gin its distinctive flavour. Juniper berries may be the only spice derived from conifers.

Juniperus rigida

Juniperus rigida, the temple juniper, is a species of juniper, native to northern China, Korea, Japan, and the far southeast of Russia (Sakhalin and Primorsky Krai), occurring at altitudes of 10-2,200 m. The species is also naturalized in California and Alabama. It is closely related to Juniperus communis (Common Juniper) and Juniperus conferta (Shore Juniper), the latter sometimes treated as a variety or subspecies of J. rigida.

It is a shrub or small tree growing to a height of 6–10 m and a trunk diameter up to 50 cm. The leaves are evergreen, needle-like, in whorls of three, bright green to yellowish-green, 10–23 mm long and 1-1.3 mm broad, with a single white stomatal band on the inner surface. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The seed cones are berry-like, green ripening in 18 months to dark purple or brownish with a variable whitish waxy coating; they are spherical, 5–9 mm diameter, and have three (rarely six) fused scales in one (rarely two) whorls of three, each with a single seed (when six scales, only the three larger scales with seeds). The seeds are dispersed when birds eat the cones, digesting the fleshy scales and passing the hard seeds in their droppings. The pollen cones are yellow, 3–5 mm long, and fall soon after shedding their pollen in spring.It is grown as an ornamental tree, often planted in temple grounds in Japan. It is also often grown as bonsai.

Synanthedon cephiformis

Synanthedon cephiformis is a moth of the family Sesiidae. It is found in Central Europe and Eastern Europe.The wingspan is 17–22 mm. Adults are on wing from June to August.

The larvae feed within galls caused by Melampsorelle caryophyllacearum and Aecidium elatinum on Abies alba, Picea excelsa, Larix decidua and Juniperus communis.

Teleiodes vulgella

Teleiodes vulgella (common groundling) is a moth of the family Gelechiidae. It is known from most of Europe, east to the southern Ural and the Volga region.

The wingspan is 11–14 mm. Adults have small blackish patches bordered by raised whitish scale-tufts. They are on wing from June to July.The larva feed on various shrubs and trees, including Crataegus, Prunus spinosa, Cotoneaster horizontalis, Juniperus communis, Malus domestica, Malus sylvestris, Prunus domestica, Amelanchier, Pyrus communis, Sorbus aria and Sorbus aucuparia.

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