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The Juniper Tree and Two Relatives of the Pine Family.

Updated on October 1, 2015

Juniper tree

A tall specimen
A tall specimen | Source

This is the final hub in the series looking at the common coniferous trees that occur in the U.K. I start with the juniper tree is one of the most widely distributed of any woody species and may be encountered in diverse ranges from the Arctic, North America, Europe and Asia. There are many species and sub species here we review Juniperus communis. In size it varies greatly and is often grown as a wide spreading, low growing garden shrub. As the above picture shows if it is left to its own devices it can attain the height of 10m. However, it is in its former growing habit that I love to encounter it.

The foliage {needles} are arranged in whorls of three of a green colour with a single white band on the inner surface. The male and female cones appear on different trees, the male producing the pollen which is carried by the wind to the waiting female cones. The female seed cones are extremely modified and berry like. {the yew tree has female cones which are modified into berry like fruits known as arils} The juniper berries {for this is how they are commonly known} are green at first, ripening in about 18 months to a purple-black colouring which has blue waxy coating. The berries are round 4-12mm in diameter and normally have three {occasionally six} fused scales each scale having a single seed.

Foliage and berries

The needles and berries {female cones} of the juniper.
The needles and berries {female cones} of the juniper.

The seeds

The seeds are dispersed by birds who consume the fleshy cones which are digested leaving the seed intact which are passed into new locations via droppings. The male cones are of a yellowish colour 2-3 mm long and fall from the shrub soon after shedding their pollen during March and April.

The berries are much to bitter to eat in their raw state but are used to flavour meats, sauces and the like. They are famous in their use as a flavouring to gin, the name juniper derives from the French word "genievre" which alludes to gin. The berries have a strong taste and should be used in sparingly after first being crushed to release the flavour.

Juniper berries have long been used in medicinal preparations especially to relieve the symptoms of infections in the urinary tract. The essential oil is employed in various guises as an embrocation for rheumatism and as an inhaler for bronchitis. The berries are also components of herbal teas and as a spice. An old remedy I came across recommends making an herbal tea from equal amounts of juniper berries and the root of lovage. " teaspoon" full of the mixed herbs where infused with 250 mm of boiling water for ten minutes. 1-2 cups were taken daily to relieve the causes of diarrhoea and flatulence.

Juniper needles

The needles ofJjuniperus  communis
The needles ofJjuniperus communis | Source

Coniferous trees

Now we review the coniferous trees that belong to the pine family. The first is the Cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani a magnificent tree native to western Syria, south central Turkey and as its name suggests Lebanon. It is an evergreen conifer tree growing up to 40m tall {130feet} with an impressive girth of up to 2.5m {over 8 feet}. The tree produces branches which in turn produce long and short shoots.

The foliage in common with all coniferous trees are referred to as needles are spaced out on the longer shoots but in clusters of 15-45 on the shorter shoots. They are 5-50mm long and vary in colour from green to a blue-green.

Cedar of Lebanon cone

male cone cedar of Lebanon
male cone cedar of Lebanon

sThe seed cones{female} are produced every second season and mature in about 18 months or so. When the cones are mature they measure some 8-12 cm long{ up to six inches} and 4-6cm wide.

This member of the Pine family tends to grow in mixed forests of European black pine and several juniper species. As is all to common these days many of these forests have been destroyed by extensive deforestation and only remnants remain. the tree is the national emblem of Lebanon and great efforts are being undertaken there to conserve the trees. They are replanting new trees and looking after existing ones more than has occurred in the past. However, the main emphasis seems to be on natural regeneration. The trees are utilised in parks and large gardens as ornamental trees.

Finally a look at the Douglas-fir a member of the pine family which is placed in the genus Psuedetsuga, which translates as false hemlock. The common name derives from being named after the renowned Scottish botanist David Douglas, famous for introducing many coniferous trees from north America to our shores.

Douglas firs are not true firs which belong to another genus that of Abies. They are medium to large trees 20-120m tall. The needles are flat and soft, linear and completely circle the branches, a good identification factor. The female cones are pendulous with persistent scales. {True firs have cones that are upright not pendulous as in the case of this tree}. They also possess a three pointed bract that sticks out form above each scale.

Top Douglas fir Below Western hemlock

Douglas-fir. | Source
Western Hemlock branches and cones
Western Hemlock branches and cones | Source


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      AD, nice to meet you. Your welcome, thank for stopping by. Best wishes to you.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for your good pictures and text.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi, thank you for your kind and appreciated comments.Best wishes to you.

    • stars439 profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Lovely trees. Educational hub. God Bless You.

    • stars439 profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Lovely trees. Educational hub. God Bless You.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      darski ,blue berries are common on other shrubs and trees so the birds that deposited them could have eaten a variety of such berries.Your comments are as usual appreciated greatly. And for being the first to comment on The Juniper Tree and two relatives of the Pine Family {thanks for tip}. Love and best wishes to you.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      What an awesome tree and ancesters. Oh I not sure I told you this, but this summer I painted my home. I was a great gloss desert rose and right after we finished, there were streaks of purple all over my hose. I was from the birds, they eat these berries and they sure look ike the4 same color as this awesome JUNIPER TREE's berries. This is another awesome and useful up, I have some Juniper essence oil, what is it good for. Rate you up up up and away...Love & peace darski


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