Juniperus communis L.

common juniper

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Where native and non-native distributions co-occur in a county, only the native distribution is shown.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Common juniper, including its varieties, has the most extensive worldwide native range of any conifer. Although it attains the stature of a small tree elsewhere in the world, it usually takes the form of a low-spreading shrub in New England. The seed cones, often referred to as “juniper berries” because they resemble a blue, spherical berry, supply the flavoring for gin, and can provide seasoning for meat and other dishes. Many game birds also eat the seed cones. This versatile plant grows in a variety of challenging conditions and is resistant to browse. It is widely planted as a hedgerow and for topiary.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), cliffs, balds, or ledges, meadows and fields, ridges or ledges, talus and rocky slopes

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a shrub (with multiple stems, or prostrate, growing close to the ground)
Leaf form
the leaves are scale-like
Leaf cross-section
the needle-like leaves are flattened (can't be rolled between the fingers)
Leaf arrangement
there are three needle-like leaves per node
Seed cone form
the seed cone is formed from a berry-like cone with leathery scales
Leaf clustering
the needle-like leaves are single, with three or more per node
Seed cone shape
the seed cone is globose (spherical)
Leaves overlapping
the needle-like leaves are separate and do not hide the twig surface
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Winter bud shape
    the winter buds are ovoid (egg-shaped)
  • Fruits or seeds
    Seed cone base
    NA
    Seed cone bracts
    NA
    Seed cone form
    the seed cone is formed from a berry-like cone with leathery scales
    Seed cone scales
    NA
    Seed cone shape
    the seed cone is globose (spherical)
    Seed cone symmetry
    the seed cone is symmetrical
    Seed cone umbo position
    NA
    Seed cone umbo spine
    NA
    Seed wings
    there are no wings on the seeds
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a shrub (with multiple stems, or prostrate, growing close to the ground)
  • Leaves
    Leaf arrangement
    there are three needle-like leaves per node
    Leaf base
    NA
    Leaf clustering
    the needle-like leaves are single, with three or more per node
    Leaf cross-section
    the needle-like leaves are flattened (can't be rolled between the fingers)
    Leaf duration
    the needle-like leaves remain green all winter
    Leaf form
    the leaves are scale-like
    Leaf glands
    the needle-like leaves have glands on the underside
    Leaf stalks
    the needle-like leaves do not have a leaf stalk
    Leaf types
    there is only one type of needle-like leaf on the twig
    Leaves overlapping
    the needle-like leaves are separate and do not hide the twig surface
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • ridges or ledges
    • talus or rocky slopes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Bark resin blisters
    there are no resin blisters on the bark
    Branchlet thickness
    1–4 mm
    Leaves on shoots
    the needle-like leaves do not grow in tight clusters on a short, knob-like shoot
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hair type
    the twigs have few or no hairs on them
    Twig hairs
    the twig does not have hairs

Wetland Status

Occurs only in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: UPL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. depressa

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Vermont
widespread (S-rank: S5)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Juniperus canadensis Lodd. ex Burgsd.
  • Juniperus communis ssp. depressa (Pursh) Franco
  • Juniperus depressa (Pursh) Raf.

Family

Cupressaceae

Genus

Juniperus

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our variety is Juniperus communis L. var. depressa Pursh.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Juniperus communis L. var. depressa Pursh N

common juniper. Juniperus canadensis Lodd. ex Burgsd.; J. communis L. ssp. depressa (Pursh) Franco; J. depressa (Pursh) Raf. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Fields, roadsides, abandoned pastures, and rocky slopes, sometimes ascending high into the mountains. Forms of this species occurring above treeline have sometimes been identified as Juniperus communis var. saxatilis Pallas (a taxonomic synonym of J. communis var. montana Ait.). Plants from New England’s higher peaks are not referable to this taxon because the stomatal bands, though somewhat wider than the green bands, are not within the range of var. montana (which is restricted to Greenland in eastern North America).