20 August 2021

Cornwall: Home of the Rarest Juniper Plant

Juniperus communis, or common juniper, is a slow-growing small coniferous tree or shrub, with green or blue-green needles that appear in whorls of three. You will know this plant as the culprit behind one of our very favourite tipples – gin. Common juniper is quite a unique type of plant in that there are separate […]

Juniperus communis, or common juniper, is a slow-growing small coniferous tree or shrub, with green or blue-green needles that appear in whorls of three. You will know this plant as the culprit behind one of our very favourite tipples – gin.

Common juniper is quite a unique type of plant in that there are separate male and female plants. Only about 5% of plant species have fully separate sexes, with most plants being hermaphrodites(1). The male juniper plants have tiny, yellow cones that shed pollen, while the female plants have berry-like seed cones that, when mature, become fleshy and purple-black. 

These female berry-like seed cones are not only responsible for gin, but also for juniper berry essential oil, which is obtained via steam-distillation of the crushed and partly dried ripe berries. Juniper berry essential oil is used to provide fragrance to soaps, lotions and perfumes, and to support health with its antiseptic and astringent properties.

Common juniper is the most widely distributed woody plant on the planet(2). As well as its wide geographical range, it is also distributed across a great diversity of habitats, from highlands to sand dunes. Despite this, common juniper is locally threatened by changing land use patterns in many places, especially in parts of the UK.

The Lizard juniper, which is a subspecies of common juniper, Juniperus communis ssp. hemisphaerica, is only found on the Lizard Peninsula here in Cornwall. The Lizard Peninsula is the most southerly point of the British mainland and is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty. The Lizard is famous for its steep serpentine cliffs and stunning cosy coves.

In 2010, the Lizard juniper had become one of the rarest plants in the UK, with the population reduced to around only 13 individual plants. The low-lying juniper bushes had suffered from scrub and gorse fires, and highland cattle, which were introduced to control the scrub, unfortunately took rather a fancy to the rare, and clearly delicious, shrubs(3).

Luckily, conservationists from the Eden Project and Natural England came to the juniper’s rescue, creating a plan for their revival. They took cuttings and berries from the Lizard plants with the aim of growing clones and progeny of the junipers, which were reared in the Eden Project nursery. Since then, around 200 of these Eden-grown junipers have been planted in a secret location on the peninsula near the existing wild population to establish a new colony. Meanwhile, additional individuals are being introduced at other wild locations in case anything disastrous happens to the isolated community of the Lizard’s Gew Graze.

This revival project is not only important for conserving this one rare population of plants, but also for understanding what methods are best for protecting our native habitats and plants. The result of this project will lend a hand in the safeguarding of other threatened plant species.

So, for the sake of our native British flora, long live the Lizard juniper.

Related Articles

 

Can you train your nose to smell again?

Losing your sense of smell, known as anosmia, is a phenomenon that, whilst previously rarely discussed, has come under the spotlight since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. Anosmia can refer to either the partial or full loss of a person’s sense of smell, and this can be permanent or temporary. There are many causes […]

Find Out More

 

Father’s Day Gift Guide

What do you give the man that asks for nothing or says that they don’t need anything for Father’s Day? I’m sure we all want the father figures in our lives to be as happy and as healthy as possible and providing them with a gift that helps them to take care of their health […]

Find Out More

 

Trelonk Wellbeing Partners: Village Pharmacy Hampstead London

Village Pharmacy is a dispensing chemist that also sells a range of toiletries as well as perfume, baby foods, health foods and pregnancy tests. In addition, they offer a film processing service. Village Pharmacy also stock a wide range of organic health, skincare, fragrances, bath and beauty products including vitamins, minerals, supplements, aromatherapy, homeopathy, organic […]

Find Out More

 

TRELONK WELLBEING PARTNERS: Queen’s health shop

Located in the heart of Kensington, Queens Health has been a long-standing establishment catering for the health and beauty of the community. Queen’s Health Shop understands wellbeing journeys, whether at their beginning, middle or even end is not always easy, and are on hand to help you be the best you can possibly be. With experienced […]

Find Out More