Juniperus communis : Common Juniper


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Coniferae (cone bearing)

Family: Cupressaceae (Cypress Family Family)

Genera: Juniperus (Juniper) (Celt. root of name is yoini = rough)

Species: communis (Lat. communis = shared by all or many)

English Name(s):

Common Juniper,

First Nation Names:

deetree jak



  • Low, spreading or horizontal shrub. Sometimes forming large patches.


  • Awl-shaped, needle-like leaves 5-10mm long.
  • Often in whorles of 3.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Cones of 2 types; male and female.
  • Female cones, fleashy and berry-like. Green when young maturing to blue.
  • Male cones, small, not berry-like.
  • The berry-like cone has a pore in the bottom through which the pollin can enter and firtilize the seeds.


  • Female cone looks like a blue or blue-grey coloured berry.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • J.horizontalis the other species of Juniper in our region is similar in habit but is easily distinguished by its scale-like leaves.
  • At treeline, Picea mariana (Black Spruce) sometimes grows in a shrub form and could look like J.communis but Black Spruce never has blue berry-like cones.



    Life Cycle:

    • Perennial
    • Berries take a couple of years to mature.

    Seasonal Cycle:

    • Evergreen.


    Animal Uses:

    • The berries (female cones) are readily eaten by most animals.


    • Dry slopes, open Aspen woods, clearings, alpine.




    • A scented Wax which can be used for candles can be obtained by boiling the waxy coating off the berries.
    • Berries yield a brown dye.


    • A volatile oil distiled from the dried berries is used to make the OTC drug Odrinil to increase urine flow. The oil can be used as a flavouring as well.
    • Berries used to treat stomach pains. 5 berryies are chewed raw or steeped for 15 mins. in 500ml water and infusion drunk. Repeated for several days.
    • Disinfectant made with 15 crushed berries are soaked in 250ml alchohol for 24 hours. Then sprayed in room where patients with infectious diseases stayed. Dilute by 1/2 with water and use as a garggle.
    • Leaves of Junper contain the antibiotic podophyllotoxin which has been found to be active against tumors.


    • Caution: The berries are not recomended for pregnant women and much use can cause kidney damage.
    • Berries can be roasted at 120C until dark brown ground to pawder and used as a coffee substitute.
    • Berries can be used to flavour foods, meet, and stews and un turkey stuffing are the most common uses.
    • Berries can greatly improve the flavour of spruce beer.
    • Berries used in Germany to flavour sauerkraut.
    • In France and India the berries are fermented with barley to make a kind of beer called 'genevrette'.
    • The berries are the main flavouring in Gin.
    • The Berries can be eaten raw or used in tea.
    • To flavour Gin 1kg berries to 400L of Gin.

    Traditional Gwich'in:





            Traditional Other:


            • Burning Juniper during childbirth will prevent fairies from substituting the baby with a changeling for the new born.
            • Cristians concidered it a blessing having sheltered Mary and Jesus in the flight to Egypt.
            • In dreams the plant itself was concidered unlucky especieally if one was sick. Dreaming of picking the berries in winter meant properity.
            • In Germany and Italy it was thought to be a life giving tree, thought to disperse evil spirits and protect from witchcraft, as witches encountering a juniper were compelled to count all its leaves.
            • The Greeks burned the berries at funerals to ward off demons, The green roots were smoked as incense on offerings to the God of Hell.
            • The Victorian language of the flowers concidered Junipers a symbol of asylum and protection.
            • To dream of the actual berries meant the dreamer would arrive at a great honours and become an important person.
            • Used in the Sun Dance Cerimony of the Blackfoot.
            • Was used as a thief catcher in an elaborite ritual.


            • Bark used by Ojibwa for weaving mats.


            • A handful of young sprigs was covered in boiling water steeped overnight and the infusion drunk to cure or prevent scurvy.
            • Alternatively for arthritis or rheumatism heated damp bundles were bound to aching parts 3-4 times a day.
            • An infusion of the berries was drunk cold every morning for a week to treat lumbago or impaired digestion.
            • Branches used as fumigants, deoderizers, and cleansers in connection with sickness.
            • Brewing or burning boughs was thought to purify a house and protect it from infection and bad spirits after illness or death.
            • Damp branches were spread on glowing embers and those suffering from arthritis or rheumatism were made to recline on them.
            • Leaves (needles or scales) were crushed, dampened, heated over the fire and bound to the jaw over an aching tooth. Then kept warm there with a hot stone.



              Typical shrub on sunny slope.

              Berry-like female cones of differing maturities and 1 not berry-like male cone.

              Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

              Range Maps

              World Range: Circumpolar; In N.A. north to slightly beyond treeline.

              Prov/State Abrev. List

              In Yukon: Found throughout the territory.

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