Botanical Name: Juniperus spp.
Brief Description and Notes: Lovely evergreen and fragrant shrubs/trees, several species of which are native to our region. See notes below for edible and medicinal uses. The female seed cones are what we call the berries. Popular indicators you’ve found a juniper are these typically blue “berries” with a white waxy or powdery coating, cedar-like fragrance, and evergreen foliage that can often be prickly. In young Junipers it takes 2-3 years for berries to develop. They are most abundant in fall–they persist through winter but will probably get eaten up by the birds!
Where To Look For It: Variable depending on species, but generally well-drained or even rocky soil, edges of woods, hillsides, pastures, hedge rows, meadows. Generally prefers full sun.
Ornamental Value: Hedge row, winter interest, evergreen, aromatic
Ecological Value & Roles: Many birds and other wildlife love the berries especially in winter. Evergreen foliage can provide habitat. Can provide soil erosion management especially on steep sites.
Edibility and Other Human Use: Berries of certain Junipers, such as virginiana and communis, are edible, but moreso in the realm of flavoring or small-dose medicinals than as substantial food. Well-known for making gin as well as for flavoring meats, ferments, sauces, etc. Pruned branches can also be used for making crafts like wreaths, but be careful–some species can really poke you! The wood can be used for many carpentry projects. Sometimes virginiana is grown as a Christmas tree.