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Juniperus communis
Juniperus communis subsp. communis
in the Netherlands
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Juniperus
Species: J. communis
Binomial name
Juniperus communis

Juniperus communis, the Common Juniper, is a species in the genus Juniperus, in the family Cupressaceae. It has the largest range of any woody plant, throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic south in mountains to around 30°N latitude in North America, Europe and Asia.



Juniperus communis subsp. alpina, Vitosha, Bulgaria.

It is a shrub or small tree, very variable and often a low spreading shrub, but occasionally reaching 10 m tall. Common Juniper has needle-like leaves in whorls of three; the leaves are green, with a single white stomatal band on the inner surface. It is dioecious, with male and female cones on separate plants, which are wind pollinated. The seed cones are berry-like, green ripening in 18 months to purple-black with a blue waxy coating; they are spherical, 4–12 mm diameter, and usually have three (occasionally six) 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 seeds in their droppings. The male cones are yellow, 2–3 mm long, and fall soon after shedding their pollen in March–April.[2][3][4]


As to be expected from the wide range, it is very variable, with several infraspecific taxa; delimitation between the taxa is still uncertain, with genetic data not matching morphological data well.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

  • Juniperus communis subsp. communisCommon 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.
    • Juniperus communis subsp. communis var. communis – Europe, most of northern Asia
    • Juniperus communis subsp. communis var. depressa Pursh – North America
    • Juniperus communis subsp. communis var. hemisphaerica (J.Presl & C.Presl) Parl. – Mediterranean mountains
    • Juniperus communis subsp. communis var. nipponica (Maxim.) E.H.Wilson – Japan (status uncertain, often treated as J. rigida var. nipponica)
  • Juniperus communis 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.
    • Juniperus communis subsp. alpina var. alpina – Greenland, Europe and Asia
    • Juniperus communis subsp. alpina var. megistocarpa Fernald & H.St.John – Eastern Canada (doubtfully distinct from var. alpina)
    • Juniperus communis 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,[3] 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).[10]

Juniperus communis is one of Ireland's longest established plants.[11]


Foliage and berries

It is commonly used in horticulture as an ornamental shrub, but is too small to have any general wood 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.

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. The cones are used to flavour gin. In fact, the word 'gin' is derived from the French word for juniper berry, genièvre, which is the name for gin in France. The Slovak national alcoholic beverage Borovička is also flavoured with juniper berry extract.

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. In Finland, juniper is used as a key ingredient in making sahti, a traditional Finnish ale.

Dioscorides' De materia medica also lists juniper berries, when crushed and put on the penis or vagina before intercourse, as a contraceptive.[12]

Juniper berries have long been used as medicine by many cultures. Juniper berries act as a strong urinary tract disinfectant if consumed and were used by American Indians as a herbal remedy for urinary tract infections. Western tribes combined the berries of juniperus communis with Berberis root bark in a herbal tea to treat diabetes. Clinical studies have verified the effectiveness of this treatment in insulin-dependent diabetes. Compounds in these plants when combined and ingested have been shown to trigger insulin production in the body's fat cells, as well as stabilize blood sugar levels. Native Americans also used juniper berries as a female contraceptive. [13]

References and external links

  1. ^ Conifer Specialist Group 1998. Juniperus communis. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. <>. Downloaded on 03 March 2010.
  2. ^ a b Rushforth, K. (1987). Conifers. Helm ISBN 0-7470-2801-X.
  3. ^ a b c Adams, R. P. (2004). Junipers of the World: The genus Juniperus. Victoria: Trafford. ISBN 1-4120-4250-X.
  4. ^ a b Arboretum de Villardebelle: Juniperus
  5. ^ Flora Europaea: Juniperus communis
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Adams, R. P., & Nguyen, S. (2007). Post-Pleistocene geographic variation in Juniperus communis in North America. Phytologia 89 (1): 43-57. pdf file
  9. ^ Den Virtuella Floran: Juniperus communis distribution
  10. ^ Association Ecosystem (Russia): Juniperus sibirica
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Riddle, J. M. (1992). Contraception and abortion from the ancient world to the Renaissance, p. 31. Harvard University Press.
  13. ^ Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, Gregory L. Tilford, ISBN 0-87842-359-1


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Juniperus communis


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Classis: Pinopsida
Ordo: Pinales
Familia: Cupressaceae
Subfamiliae: Cupressoideae
Genus: Juniperus
Sectio: Juniperus sect. Juniperus
Species: Juniperus communis


Juniperus communis L.

Vernacular names

Català: Ginebró
Česky: Jalovec obecný
Dansk: Almindelig Ene
Deutsch: Gemeiner Wacholder
Eesti: Harilik kadakas
English: Common Juniper
Español: Enebro
Français: Genévrier commun
Italiano: Ginepro comune
Magyar: Közönséges boróka
Nederlands: Jeneverbes
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Einer
Polski: Jałowiec pospolity
Português: Zimbro-rasteiro
Русский: Можжевельник обыкновенный
Slovenčina: Borievka obyčajná
Suomi: Kataja
Svenska: En
Türkçe: Adi ardıç
Українська: Ялівець звичайний


Data compiled from various sources by Mark W. Skinner. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

  • Species Plantarum 2:1040. 1753
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Juniperus communis on Wikimedia Commons.


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