Ground Juniper (Juniperus communis var. depressa)

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Ground Juniper (Juniperus communis var. depressa)

Ground Juniper, also called Mountain Juniper and Common Juniper, is very rare in North Carolina, with a couple of relict populations on rocky ridges. It NC it occurs in Gaston County in the Piedmont and Macon County in the Mountain region. In Virginia and South Carolina it also occurs in Coastal Plain sandhills.

The variety found in North America, var. depressa, is a low ground-covering clonal shrub. Other varieties of Common Juniper, usually erect shrubs or small trees, occur across Europe and northern Asia. The berry-like fleshy cones are used as the main flavoring in gin.

The population photographed here is growing on a ridge of King's Mountain in Crowder's Mountain State Park.

Gaston Co., NC 4/16/2011.

Ground Juniper (Juniperus communis var. depressa)

The leaves are flat and have white on the upper surface when mature.

Crowder's Mountain State Park, Gaston Co., NC 4/16/2011.

Ground Juniper (Juniperus communis var. depressa)

The leaves on new growth are bright yellow-green.

Crowder's Mountain State Park, Gaston Co., NC 4/16/2011.

Ground Juniper (Juniperus communis var. depressa)

This population is particularly low-growing, about 6", but it can reach a meter high and some small tree forms have been reported in Virginia.

Crowder's Mountain State Park, Gaston Co., NC 4/16/2011.

Ground Juniper (Juniperus communis var. depressa)

Crowder's Mountain State Park, Gaston Co., NC 4/16/2011.

More information:
Gymnosperm Database
USDA PLANTS database
Wikipedia
Virginia Tech Dendrology

Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of North Carolina

cwcook@duke.edu

All photographs and text ©2012 by Will Cook unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.