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Juniperus communis Linnaeus var. depressa Pursh. Section: Juniperus. Ground Juniper, Mountain Juniper, Common Juniper. Phen: Mar-Apr; fleshy cone maturing in second or third year. Hab: In thin soil around rock outcrops on mountain summits and Piedmont monadnocks and rocky bluffs (in GA and NC), high elevation old fields (in VA), xeric Coastal Plain sandhills (in SC and VA). Dist: Juniperus communis is circumpolar, widespread in n. North America, n. Europe, and n. Asia. Adams (2008a, 2008b, 2008c, 2018) recognizes five varieties in North America, all native eastern North American plants belonging to var. depressa. In North America J. communis s.l. is primarily northern and montane, occurring nearly throughout Canada and AK, south in the Appalachians to SC, GA, and AL, south in the Rocky Mountains to NM, AZ, and CA. It is sometimes planted as a landscaping plant. In e. North America, it is rare and scattered south of PA, MI, and WI, ranging south to a few disjunct sites in VA, NC, SC, GA, and s. IN, in our area notably known from Mount Satulah (Macon County, NC), King's Pinnacle (Gaston County, NC), and in sandy soils at Hitchcock Woods (Aiken County, SC).

Origin/Endemic status: Native

Taxonomy Comments: Var. depressa, a decumbent shrub, up to about 1 meter high, forms large clonal patches. Harvill et al. (1992) report scattered sites for var. communis in montane VA; these are based on columnar trees. Adams in FNA (1993b) considers var. depressa to be the only variety occurring in e. United States, and states that var. depressa sometimes forms columnar trees to 10 m tall; Adams et al. (2016) accepted var. communis from our area. Additional problems about the status of Juniperus communis in our area remain unresolved; variation in growth form, morphologic characters, and habitat suggest the possibility of the presence of several native taxa. See Coker & Totten (1945) for additional discussion.

Other Comments: The "berry" of Juniperus communis s.l. is the juniper berry used as a spice, as well as the main flavoring of gin.

Synonymy: = C, F, FNA2, G, Il, K1, K3, K4, Mi, NE, NY, Pa, RAB, Va, W, Adams (2008b), Adams (2014), Adams (2018), Adams et al (2016); = Juniperus canadensis Lodd. ex Burgsd.; = Juniperus sibirica Burgsd. – S, S13, misapplied; < Juniperus communis L. – GrPl, WV

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image of plant© Alan M. Cressler | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Alan M. Cressler | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Alan M. Cressler | Original Image ⭷