Great news from Glengorm today, as we welcome Matt Parratt from The UK National Tree Seed Project to collect Juniper seeds from our site!
This initiative is overseen by Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, as part of their Millennium Seed Bank.
Juniper (Juniperus communis) is a priority species for conservation. Scottish Natural Heritage, the Forestry Commision and Plantlife are working in partnership to help conserve Scottish plants.
Common juniper has the largest geographic range of any woody plant in the world. It is one of three conifers native to Scotland [the other two being Yew and Scots Pine].
Although individual trees and shrubs can live for more than a century, a lack of regeneration is leading to its downfall.
For example, the absence of grazing by animals such as Highland cattle means that seedlings germinating from these older plants struggle to compete with other vegetation. Worse still, voles and rabbits have a real taste for the young shoots, nibbling them away before they have a chance to grow.
Juniper has now disappeared from more than a third of its original range in the UK.
If you need proof of juniper’s importance to our landscape, the berries are used to flavour that most essential life-giving substance: GIN.
These berries are also commonly used as flavouring for game dishes – think hearty venison, pheasant or grouse.
What’s not to love?
Upon closer inspection, you will find that juniper berries are in fact small cones. The word gin originates from a Dutch term for the plant; “genever” was the traditional Dutch precursor to Britain’s favourite tipple. Sadly, most cones destined for production in the UK are now imported from Hungary.
Historically, Scottish junipers were also prized for their smokeless wood by illicit whisky distillers, as burning it didn’t betray the presence of their illegal stills! So, not only does juniper taste good, but it’s got a hint of rebel spirit about it too.
Hopefully, cones collected from juniper here on Glengorm will help to secure the future of this fascinating and delicious plant for generations to come.
Now, where did I put that tonic and lime…?
Glengorm Wildlife Steward
Thumb Image: Alan Watson Featherstone – www.treesforlife.org.uk