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Family: Cupressaceae Synonymy: Etymology

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Juniperus communis L.
Common names: Common Juniper, Dwarf Juniper, Mountain Common Juniper, Old Field Common.

Family: Cupressaceae
Etymology: The genus Juniperus from the latin juniper, epithet communis from the latin common (1).



Growth form: Coniferous shrub or columnar tree. Throughout most of North America, grows as a low, mat-forming shrub 2'-5' tall and 7'-13' across (1).


Bark: Thin, shreddy or scaly, often exfoliating into thin strips (2).

Leaves: Simple, stiff and arranged in whorls of three with pungent odor. Younger leaves tend to be more needlelike whereas mature leaves are scalelike (2).

Fruit: berrylike; red, ripening to a glaucous blueblack (2).

Similar species: Similar to many species of juniper, but growth form in the United States differs it from other species.

Life history:
Native/introduced: Native (3).

Photosynthetic pathway:

Regeneration: Common juniper is typically dioecious but occasionally monoecious. Seed usually matures during the second growing season , although there have been some reports of cones maturing within only one season (4).

Distribution: Perhaps the most widely distributed tree in the world, circumboreal across North America, Europe, northern Asia and Japan. In North America beyond the tree limit, from Alaska to Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland, south through New England to the Carolinas and west through NE Illinois, Indiana, northern Ohio, Minnesota, and Nebraska to the western montains of Washington, California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Widespread throughout Europe with the exception of certain Mediterranean lowlands, arctic, and subarctic regions (3).

Medicinal: Used by Great Basin Indians as a blood tonic. Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest used tonics made from the branches to treat colds, flu, arthritis, muscle aches, and kidney problems. Indigenous peoples from Eurasia made tonics for kidney and stomach ailments and rheumatism. Common juniper extract, which can be fatal in even fairly small amounts (1,2,4).

Food: Was used to make gin and as a meat preservative (2). 

  1. J.S. Earl. 1998. Juniperus communis a life history.

  2. Juniperus communis: Botanical and Ecological Characteristics.

  3. Juniperus communis: Distribution and Occurrence.

  4. Tueller, P T., Clark, J E. 1975. Autecology of pinyon-juniper species of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. In: The pinyon-juniper ecosystem: a symposium; 1975 May; Logan, UT. Logan, UT: Utah State University, College of Natural Resources, Utah Agricultural Experiment Station: 27-40.

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