To appreciate the variety of forms assumed by
the Juniper according to the elevation at which
it grows, it should be seen on slopes like those
of the North Downs in Surrey – one portion
of the range at Mickleham is named Juniper Hill.
In the valleys it may be found as a small shapely
tree, higher up the slopes as a pyramidal shrub,
and as higher and more exposed positions are reached,
the Juniper gradually dwindles to a low, shapeless
bush. This, however, must not be confounded with
a distinct variety to which the name nana has
been applied; it differs from the type in having
shorter and broader overlapping leaves, with curved
Var. nana is confined to the mountains of the
north of our islands, and ascends to 2,700 feet,
which is 300 feet higher than is recorded of the
The Juniper is seldom more than a shrub a few
feet in height, though it occasionally develops
into a small tree from ten to twenty feet high,
with a girth of five feet. It has a fibrous red
bark, which flakes off like that of the Yew.
The leaves are shaped like a cobbler’s awl,
rigid, and end in sharp points. They have thickened
margins, the upper sides concave, and they are
arranged round the branches in whorls of three.
The male and female flowers are on separate trees.
The male catkin may be known in May by its numerous
anthers and pale yellow pollen. The female catkins
will be found in the axils of the leaves, and
resemble buds. The scales are fleshy, and after
fertilization the upper ones slowly develop into
the form of a berry, which has a few undeveloped
scales as its base. They do not ripen until the
following year, when they are blue-black, covered
with a fine glaucous bloom. They have a pungent
flavour, which is utilized in concocting gin.
The ‘berries’ have long been known
as a stimulant for the kidneys.
The Virginian Juniper (Juniperus virginiana) or
“Red Cedar” as it is called on the
American continent, is a much larger plant, which
is frequently seen in our parks and gardens. It
varies in habit, and may be low and spreading,
bush-like, or tall and tapering, thirty to forty
feet high. Its leaves are in threes, like those
of our native species, but the three are united
by their bases. The juvenile foliage is needle-like
resembling that of the Common Juniper, but the
adult leaves are scale-like. Both types of leaves
are found on the tree at the same time.
It is with the red heartwood of this tree that
our “cedar” pencils are covered, large
quantities of the timber being imported for the
The Virginian Juniper was mentioned by John Evelyn
in 1664, and is believed to have been introduced
by him from North America.