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Featured Trees

Find out which tree is in the spotlight this month...



Juniperus communis


With the popularity of gin having soared in recent years and the number of trendy gin bars popping up, you’d be forgiven for assuming that its key ingredient, juniper, was common place. In fact, wild juniper, juniper communis, has been identified as a species for conservation concern for England and for a number of years, juniper has been in decline in the UK.

One of only three conifers native to the UK, juniper is an enigmatic tree with a history steeped in folklore and myth. Although these days it might be most famous for flavouring our favourite tipple, it used to be used to ward off evil spirits at Halloween when hung outside your door. It was also said that you would prosper if you dreamed of picking juniper fruits in winter.

As well as flavouring drinks it was frequently added to game dishes to add a spiced flavouring to meats and sauces. Part of the reason for this may have been medicinal with juniper berries thought to be beneficial for digestive and respiratory problems.

Back to the present day, Juniper is still a very useful plant. It can take the form of a sprawling ground cover shrub or an upright tree, living for up to 200 years. It’s dense, dark green foliage harbours those blue-black ‘berries’ which are in actual fact not berries at all but small, fleshy cones. Birds such as the song thrush and fieldfare feed on the berries while goldcrests and firecrests find safe nesting sites in its dense cover. Caterpillars of several moths also find shelter and food including the Juniper pug and Juniper carpet moth.

An attractive shrub with an interesting past, if you’re looking plant with a little more to it than meets the eye, then juniper is the tree for you and if you’ve a taste for the strong stuff, why not try our new Castle Howard gin, produced by local distillers Sloe Motion using botanicals foraged from the Estate. Click here for more details.

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