Juniperus communis L., Sp. Pl. 1040 1753. (Syn: Juniperus albanica Pénzes; Juniperus argaea Balansa ex Parl. [Invalid]; Juniperus borealis Salisb. [Illegitimate]; Juniperus communis var. arborescens Gaudin ……………….; Juniperus compressa Carrière; Juniperus cracovia K.Koch; Juniperus dealbata Loudon; Juniperus depressa Stevels [Illegitimate]; Juniperus difformis Gilib.; Juniperus echinoformis Rinz ex Bolse; Juniperus elliptica K.Koch; Juniperus fastigiata Knight; Juniperus hemisphaerica C.Presl; Juniperus hibernica Lodd. ex Loudon; Juniperus hispanica Booth ex Endl.; Juniperus interrupta H.L.Wendl. ex Endl.; Juniperus kanitzii Csató; Juniperus microphylla Antoine; Juniperus niemannii E.L.Wolf; Juniperus oblongopendula Loudon ex Beissn.; Juniperus occidentalis Carrière [Illegitimate]; Juniperus oxycedrus subsp. hemisphaerica (J.Presl & C.Presl) E.Schmid; Juniperus reflexa Gordon; Juniperus saxatilis Lindl. & Gordon; Juniperus suecica Mill.; Juniperus taurica Lindl. & Gordon; Juniperus uralensis Beissn.; Juniperus vulgaris Bubani [Illegitimate]; Juniperus withmanniana Carrière; Sabina dealbata (Loudon) Antoine; Thuiaecarpus juniperinus Trautv.);
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 is a shrub or small coniferous evergreen tree, very variable and often a low spreading shrub, but occasionally reaching 10 m tall. It 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.
Juniperus communis is cultivated in the horticulture trade and used as an evergreen ornamental shrub in gardens.
(From Wikipedia on 16.12.13)
Fruit – raw or cooked[2, 5, 9, 15]. It is usually harvested in the autumn when fully ripe and then dried for later use. A soft, mealy, sweet, resinous flesh. The fruit is often used as a flavouring in sauerkraut, stuffings, vegetable pates etc, and is an essential ingredient of gin. The aromatic fruit is used as a pepper substitute according to one report. An essential oil is sometimes distilled from the fruit to be used as a flavouring. Average yields are around 1%. The cones are about 4 – 8mm in diameter and take 2 – 3 years to mature[82, 200]. Some caution is advised when using the fruit, see the notes above on toxicity. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. A tea is made by boiling the leaves and stems. A tea made from the berries has a spicy gin-like flavour.
Juniper fruits are commonly used in herbal medicine, as a household remedy, and also in some commercial preparations. They are especially useful in the treatment of digestive disorders plus kidney and bladder problems. The fully ripe fruits are strongly antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, strongly diuretic, rubefacient, stomachic and tonic[4, 7, 9, 21, 46, 165, 240, 254]. They are used in the treatment of cystitis, digestive problems, chronic arthritis, gout and rheumatic conditions. They can be eaten raw or used in a tea, but some caution is advised since large doses can irritate the urinary passage. Externally, it is applied as a diluted essential oil, having a slightly warming effect upon the skin and is thought to promote the removal of waste products from underlying tissues. It is, therefore, helpful when applied to arthritic joints etc. The fruits should not be used internally by pregnant women since this can cause an abortion. The fruits also increase menstrual bleeding so should not be used by women with heavy periods. When made into an ointment, they are applied to exposed wounds and prevent irritation by flies. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is ‘Toxin elimination'.
A decoction of the branches is used as an anti-dandruff shampoo. The essential oil distilled from the fruits is used in perfumes with spicy fragrances. In hot countries the tree yields the resin ‘Sandarac’ from incisions in the trunk[4, 74]. This is used in the production of a white varnish. The stems were at one time used as a strewing herb to sweeten the smell of rooms[14, 244]. The whole plant can be burnt as an incense and fumigant[66, 102, 146]. It was used during epidemics in the belief that it would purify the air and cleanse it of infection. Fresh or dried juniper branches also make a good insect repellent[102, 172]. Many forms of this species are good ground cover plants for sunny situations. Forms to try include ‘Depressa Aurea’, ‘Dumosa’, ‘Effusa’, and ‘Repanda'. ‘Prostrata’ can also be used. The bark is used as cordage and as a tinder. Wood – strong, hard, fragrant, very durable in contact with the soil and very close-grained, but usually too small to be of much use[82, 229, 244, 245]. It makes an excellent fuel.
(From PFAF on 16.12.13)
Gymnosperms Fortnight: Cupressaceae-Juniperus communis from California-GS-23 : Attachments (2).
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Juniperus communis photographed from Sunnyvale, California.