Wild Harris

Juniper

Juniper 1 LCampbell.jpgJuniper    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

Juniper is one of just three species of conifer native to Scotland and the only conifer native to Harris. Its bright green needles and distinctive smell set it apart from other plants. Juniper growns in two forms – and upright form in the shape of a tree and a low growing form that sprawls across the ground. Here in our windy climate we only get the low sprawling form which can cover large areas of ground in places. Juniper grows on moorland areas from the hill tops down to sea level but it often goes unnoticed. It can’t cope with heavy grazing from sheep and deer or regular burning. On the other hand it doesn’t like to be shaded out by other plants so it grows best where there is a low level of grazing. It is most common on higher hills at around 300m above sea level where it can cover up to one third of the ground area like a bright green matt. Female plants produce a dark blue berry with a very distinctive smell which is used to flavour gin. The berries take two years to mature so in the autumn most braches hold green berries from the current year which are not ripe and blue berries from the previous year that are ripe. 

Lingreabhagh is the best place on Harris to find Juniper where it can be found growing from the roadsides up to the slopes of Roineabhal.

Juniper 3 LCampbell.jpgJuniper    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

by Robin Reid