Juniperus communis, common juniper seeds
Juniperus communis belongs to the family of the Cupressaceae, the cypresses. J. communis is also known as common juniper. The common juniper is wildly distributed in the northern part of the temperate zone. J. communis is characteristic for neglected grassland and dry grassland. Due to that it belongs to the natural scenery of the Swabian Alb.
The common juniper grows as a shrub and reaches a height of 12 m. Its bark is grey to reddish brown.
The leaves of the common juniper are blue green needles. Three needles stand together in a whorl. The needles are 2 cm long, acute and stinging. This fact protects the common juniper against herbivores. It is no problem to let sheep graze on neglected grassland with common juniper. They will avoid the stinging needles.
J. communis is diecious that means that one needs always a male and a female plant for reproduction. The male inflorescence is yellow and ovate. It gets about 5 mm long. The female flowers are inconsiderable green.
The fruit of the common juniper is often described as a berry cone. The fruit needs quite a long time until it is ripe. It is first greenish and gets dark blue to black after 3 years. It can be eaten when it is ripe. The seeds of the common juniper are 5 mm long and very hard.
The common juniper can be used for many things. One can built furniture and walking sticks out of the wood. The farmers used juniper as a spice or as a fumigant for meat and sausages. The berries can also be used to make schnaps.
There are some myths and stories around the common juniper. In former times on said that lighting a branch of the juniper will chase away bad witches and demons. In general the common juniper was a sign for life. The Romans saw it as a kind of tree of life. In Austria it was common to put a branch of the common juniper on its hat when one was about to go on a long and dangerous hiking trip. The branch of the common juniper should protect the hiker from tiredness and hurting during the trip.
In medicine the common juniper was also used. It is diuretic and draining. But pregnant women and persons with kidney problems should avoid medicaments with common juniper because it can cause an irritation of the kidney.
The seeds of J. communis have to be processed out of the berries. Each berry contains 3 seeds J. communis seeds need a stratification for getting viable. They germinate best when stratified first warm and then cold. For the warm stratification the seeds should be mixed with moist substrate and should be kept at a temperature of about 15°C for 2 weeks. After the warm stratification they should be put into the fridge for ambout 2-3 months at a temperature of about 4°C. After this procedure they're ready to get planted.
J. communis grows on nutrient poor soils and needs much light. The common juniper is winter hardy. In areas where there is much snow one should tight together the branches before winter to avoid their breaking. The branches erect quite slowly when they were once broken down.
The common juniper is a tree for a lifetime. It can get 800 years old.