A tale of two junipers
The other juniper that Melissa pointed out to us at Illinois Beach State Park on June 6th was a species that forms broad, low mounds, Juniperus communis. Here’s a picture from the overcast morning of June 9th showing a prominent common juniper mound in the foreground and several others farther back. The yellow-orange wildflowers are the hoary puccoon that you saw closer views of a few weeks ago.
Whenever I come across the species name communis I’m accustomed to finding out that the plant in question is native to Europe, where Linnaeus and other early botanists considered it “common.” I was surprised, then, to learn that Juniperus communis is native on several continents. Here’s what the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center says: “Although commonly a tree in Eurasia, Common Juniper is only rarely a small tree in New England and other northeastern States. In the West, it is a low shrub, often at timberline. Including geographic varieties, this species is the most widely distributed native conifer in both North America and the world. Juniper berries are food for wildlife, especially grouse, pheasants, and bobwhites. They are an ingredient in gin, producing the distinctive aroma and tang.”
© 2016 Steven Schwartzman