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Juniperus communis

Common juniper

Common juniper (Eng), enebro común, enebro real (Spa), ginebre (Cat), ipar ipurua (Baq), cimbro (Glg), zimbro-comum (Por).

Native

DID YOU KNOW...? The label of many gin bottles features a juniper branch showing the fruits used in its distillation.

DESCRIPTION

Of the three subspecies of juniper on the Iberian Peninsula, the subspecies communis is the only one that attains tree form, as it can be up to 15 m in height, although it often occurs as a large, branching shrub with greyish-brown or reddish bark that sheds in longitudinal strips. The entire plant contains essential oils and is aromatic. The leaves are acicular (needle-like), 10-20 cm long, 1-2 mm wide, sharp and pointed with a white band on the upper side that differentiates it from other juniper species (J. oxycedrus L.). The leaves are arranged in threes, like a three pointed star or the blades of a fan. There are both male and female specimens. The males develop very small cones that produce pollen and the females grow the fleshy and sub-globose, pea-sized fruits (actually false fruit) known as galbuli, which are very dark and bluish when ripe. These have a coating that looks like dust or wax which is known as bloom.

ECOLOGY

This is a hardy species, adapted to extreme continental climates comprising cold winters and dry summers. On the Iberian Peninsula it mainly occurs in mountainous areas. It adapts to any soil type, even if poor and stony, although it prefers limestones, where it colonises the substrate before being replaced by other faster-growing species as it cannot survive in shady conditions. It occurs alone or mixed with other species and sometimes forms small stands. It does not resprout after fire.

DISTRIBUTION

The common juniper occurs throughout Europe, southern Asia and North America, mainly in mountainous areas, with many forms reflecting its different subspecies and varieties. In the Iberian Peninsula the subspecies communis is more abundant in the north, central area and east.