Losing juniper would mean more than just losing a single species – it also supports more than 40 species of insect and fungus that cannot survive without it.
Juniper was one of the first trees to colonise after the ice age and for centuries the berries have been used for culinary reasons such as the flavouring of gin and cooking of game dishes
Along with Scots pine and yew, Juniper Juniperus communis is one of only three conifers native to Britain. Although a very long lived perennial, in the Cotswolds there are very few sites where Juniper is established and regenerating successfully.
Minchinhampton and Rodborough are the exception to the rule with up to 450 examples throughout both Commons and an active management programme to ensure their survival.
This month we have been liberating a colony of Juniper at Bear Hill on Rodborough where the habitat began to succeed into mixed scrub. The threat became advanced two years ago when we witnessed a lack of light beginning to weaken the stems (etiolation) and affecting the reproductively of the females. Of course the worst case scenario would be eventual death.
The removal of the trees and bushes at this site was phased over two years to reduce the risk of light shock and possible wind damage. We are now completing our final years work which sees the whole area free of enveloping scrub.
As pioneer species, the proximity to bare ground is an important factor for seed establishment. We have identified areas at this site to rake down the layer of scrub leaf litter and build-up of soil using teams of volunteers this Summer. With the inclusion of seed shelters to prevent berries and seedlings we hope to emulate our success elsewhere across the Rodborough over the last few years in Juniper management.
Over next month we will look at the suitability to plant out young plants to mix up the age and sex propagated from the parents above.
Area Ranger Richard