Tree of the Year 2002

Common Juniper (Juniperus communis)

The juniper, tree of the year 2002, belongs to the cypress family and has many phenotypes. Once shrub and once tree, columnar or sprouted flat. But independent of the habit, it is always an evergreen and usually heavily stinging conifer which indeed has no typical, woody cones, but forms berry-cones: in July of the first year, the seams between the flakes shut, in winter of the second or third year, the inlying seeds mature; from summer of the second year, the berry-cones become bluish black: We know those as 'juniper berries', like they are used for cooking of deer dishes or for marinading and for manufacture of gin.

The seeds are predominantly spread by birds and wild chickens. Out of these grow either pure male or female plants, which is called diocious in botany.

The tree of the year 2002 can actually grow nearly everywhere, given that other plants do not challenge them for the sunlight, because its highly depending on light.

It is indeed very slow-growing but can on the other hand become very old: the juniper can live 500 - 2000 years! It is spread virtually all over the northern hemisphere and grows from wet hill moor or dry, sandy soil often up to 1500-1600 meters above sea level in the mountains.

Because of the stinging needles, the juniper itself is avoided by sheep and goats, whereby it often seems to be the nearly only bigger plant in heath areas. But in its protection, mountain ashes, birch trees and oaks can grow as well. On the other hand, the juniper is endangered in survival if appropriate spaces are not kept open.

The wood is predominantly used for turnery or cutting. Or it ends up in the cure oven together with coldmeat because of its spicy flavour.

In mythology, the potion of its berries is described to provide clairvoyant capabilities.

In heath areas, the juniper has enspired humans' fantasy especially in the twilight and because of this, they were regularly planted at plots as guardians at death's door.

At least the juniper, tree of the year 2002, is a modest and visually beautiful tree that might be planted into the landscape or in gardens more frequently. It's just that it needs a lot of light.