Genus Juniperus

The juvenile leaves of a juniper are needlelike. Mature leaves are awl-shaped, spreading, and arranged in pairs or in whorls of three. Male and female reproductive structures usually are borne on separate plants. The reddish brown or bluish cones are fleshy and berrylike and often have a grayish, waxy covering. They mature in 1 to 3 seasons and contain 1 to 12 seeds, usually 3. Common juniper (J. communis), a sprawling shrub, is widely distributed on rocky soils throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Many ornamental varieties have been developed. The fruit, or berry, of this species is used to flavour foods and alcoholic beverages, particularly gin (q.v.), which is named after Juniperus through the French genièvre. Juniper berries have a fragrant, spicy aroma and a slightly bittersweet flavour. Used with venison, they remove the gamey taste. They are also used to season sauces and stuffings, in pickling meats, and to flavour liqueurs and bitters.

Text copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica
Image copyright Peter Kammer