Mountain juniper, common juniper and ground juniper

Published 9:30 am Friday, December 28, 2012

Juniperus communis var depressa

In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora of Polk County, the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) and botanist, David Campbell need your help in locating January’s “Most Wanted — Plants,” Juniperus communis var. depressa, also known by the common names:  Mountain Juniper, Common Juniper and Ground Juniper.

Common Juniper is abundant in the northern latitude of North America. It is very rare in North Carolina; however, some disjunct populations have been found in both the mountains and the piedmont.  This low-growing evergreen shrub can be found in thin soil around rock outcrops, rocky bluffs and monadnocks (mountains or rocky masses that have resisted erosion and stand isolated above the surrounding landscape).

The leaves are awl-shaped and needle-like, 1/4-7/8” long, almost perpendicular to the stem, and in whorls of three. The foliage is gray-green to blue-green in summer, sometimes has a yellow or brownish cast in the winter, often with a white line above and shiny dark green color beneath.  The twigs are shiny and greenish yellow, becoming reddish brown and the bark is dark reddish brown, peeling in long, loose scales.  The berry-like fruit is blue-black, hard and covered with a white powder.

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