Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Plant of the Week: Dwarf Juniper (Siberian Juniper): Juniperus communis

This is one of those believe it or not situations, but this is the most widely distributed conifer in the world, although it is rare in Kentucky. Unlike its cousin, eastern red cedar, this specie is usually an evergreen shrub that rarely grows taller than about 5' in this part of the world.  It can grow up to 25' tall, but that is in more northern New England habitats. Like other junipers, it has needle-like leaves and these occur in whorls of three on this plant.  The white on the upper leaf is due to stomatal bloom and the leaves persist for three years.The cones are about 1/4" in dimater and are round with smooth leathery scales and take three years to mature.  When mature they are bluish black and they are always covered with a white bloom. The bark is often hidden by the needles but is very attractive, flaky and reddish-brown in color. Some folks might confuse this with J. conferta but J. communis has a broader white stomatal stripe and J. conferta has a green line in the middle of the white stripe. This species is quite adaptable to poor soils and requires full sunlight.  Once established it requires little maintenance and deer do not like to browse it as do other mammals. It can be susceptible to juniper blights.  There are a variety of cultivars on the market and var. depressa is one that rarely gets more than 3' tall.  This is one of those species that can serve as an alternative plant for foundation plantings other than boxwoods or other standard species used in the landscape trade.  It can also but used in naturalized plantings or as a hedge. There is a cultivar 'Effusa' which would make a good rock garden plant and in mass plantings.  If you are into making your own gin, the berries can be used to flavor it. In the past, if you mixed it with cedar oil, the ancient Egyptians used it to embalm the dead.  In medieval Europe is was burned to fend off evil and its berries were used as an antidote to poison and to heal animal bites.

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