Synonyms for Juniper: Common juniper
Scientific Name: Juniperus communis L.
Family: Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)
It looks a little straggly and prickly and is a native of inhospitable mountainsides, moors and heaths. Sometimes standing erect, sometimes hugging a rocky slope, the evergreen juniper can grow to a height of three metres. Anyone trying to gather its shiny bluish-black berries will inevitably come up against the sharp, needle-like leaves which are about a centimetre in length and radiate outwards in groups of three or four. Juniper is dioecious. This means that there are separate male and female plants on which the inconspicuous male and female flowers develop from April to May. The wind carries the pollen for fertilisation. The fertilised female flowers develop berry-like fruits which take three years to reach maturity. Because they take several years to ripen, the bush bears unripe green berries and ripe blue ones at the same time. Although we call them juniper berries, botanically they are in fact seed cones. A three-rayed fissure on the surface of the seed cone gives an indication of this. It is the result of coalescence of the three uppermost scales of the cone.