Unusual & Old Fashioned Fruit Trees

Common Juniper - Juniperus Communis.


The Common Juniper is a member of the Cypress family and of course an evergreen conifer. Although a native of Great Britain it is seldom planted and quite scarce in the wild. At an average height of only between 5 and 10m it is one of our smaller trees. Many conifers require an acid or peaty soil to grow well, but the Juniper will tolerate anything from chalky soils to acid. The seeds of the Juniper though, need ideal conditions to germinate which has resulted in ever decreasing numbers of wild trees as more and more are cut down and do not get replaced by natural propagation.

The Juniper has sharp, spiny needles up to Ĺ inch long that smell of apples and lemons when crushed. Most people donít realise that all conifers have flowers, albeit mostly non-descript, so that pollination can happen, but for any plants to produce seed, they must have male and female sexual parts. Some trees have different sexed flowers on different trees, but the Common Juniper has both sexes on one. After successful pollination purplish black berries are produced that ripen in the Autumn.

The traditional use of Juniper berries is as an essential flavouring of gin, but in more recent times the berries have become popular in liqueurs and sauces for various meats. Another major use for the berries was to extract the oil from them, and make a tablet for terminating pregnancies. These Juniper tablets were sold in the UK up until only a few decades ago.

As with other native trees, such as the Yew that can be seen planted in nearly every churchyard and is said to ward off evil spirits, myths have built up around the Juniper and its magical properties. Junipers are said to keep away evil spirits on the Eve of May Day and also prevent the entrance of the Devil and witches.

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