Characteristics of Common Juniper Tree (Juniperus communis) in the Wild

Juniperus communis
Common Juniper (Juniperus communis) is a species of conifer that grows to form a shrub or small tree in the family Cupressaceae. The geographic range of this tree is the largest of all the northern hemisphere with a cool climate from the south pole in the mountains to about 30 °N in North America, Europe, and Asia. Relic populations can be found in the Atlas Mountains of Africa.

Juniperus communis is highly variable, with some infraspecific taxa, delimitation between taxa is still uncertain, with genetic data not matching morphological data well.

Currently, there are several subspecies recorded:

    Juniperus communis subsp. communis

  • Juniperus communis subsp. communis var. communis
  • Juniperus communis subsp. communis var. depression
  • Juniperus communis subsp. communis var. hemisphaerica
  • Juniperus communis subsp. communis var. nipponica
    Juniperus communis subsp. alpine

  • Juniperus communis subsp. alpine var. alpine
  • Juniperus communis subsp. alpine var. megistocarpa
  • Juniperus communis subsp. alpine var. jackie

Some botanists treat subsp. alpina in lower varieties, in this case, the correct name is Juniperus communis var. saxatilis, although the name Juniperus communis var. montana is also sometimes used, especially in eastern Europe and Russia.

Juniperus communis is cultivated in the horticultural trade and is used as an ornamental tree and bonsai. The following few cultivars have earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

  • Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’
  • Juniperus communis ‘Green Carpet’
  • Juniperus communis ‘Hibernica’
  • Juniperus communis ‘Repanda’


Characteristics of Common Juniper Leaf

Juniperus communis Leaf

The leaves, shaped like needles and gathered in three spirals, are green and have a single white stomata band outside.


Characteristics of Common Juniper Fruit

Juniperus communis Fruit

The fruits are galbules, round cones, between 4-12 mm in diameter, and grayish-green in color. After 18 months, it turns purplish-black with a bluish waxy patina.

Usually, they have 3 (sometimes 6) fleshy scales fused and on each scale one seed. The male seeds are yellow, 2-3 mm long, and fall off immediately after releasing pollen.

Juniper cones are used to flavor certain beers and gins. In Finland, juniper is used as the main ingredient in making Sahti, a traditional Finnish beer. Also, Slovak spirits Borovička and Dutch Jenever are flavored with juniper berries or their extracts.

The cones have long been used medicinally by many cultures including the Navajo people. The tribes of Western America combined the fruit of Juniperus communis with the bark of the Berberis root in an herbal tea. Native Americans also used juniper berries as a female contraceptive.


Characteristics of Common Juniper Tree

Juniperus communis Tree

Common juniper is a slow-growing shrub or small tree, 1-5 meters (sometimes up to 10 meters) in height under optimal conditions.



In Scandinavia, wood is used to make containers for storing dairy products, butter, and cheese. It is also often used in the manufacture of wooden boats due to its tough nature.

In Estonia, juniper wood is valued for its long-lasting and pleasant aroma, the natural structure of the wood which is highly decorative, and the good physical properties of the wood due to the slow growth rate of juniper and the resulting dense and strong wood. Decorative items, handicrafts, and home furnishings are often made with juniper wood.

Juniper wood, especially burl wood, is often used to make the handles of French pocket knives such as Laguiole.


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