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Is Britain's indigenous Juniper crop facing crisis?

Published:  28 October, 2015

Britain's stock of native Juniper could be endangered, according to a new report.

The study, from wildlife charity Plantlife, found that up to 79% of Scottish juniper recorded in 2014 was either mature, old or dead.

Juniper is the definitive botanical used in the distillation of gin.

Many Juniper bushes are over a century old. Modern land management practices are prohibiting them from seeding healthily.

It is particularly difficult for Juniper to pollinate in small numbers because its plants are either male of female.

Juniper seedlings require bare ground to establish and grow slowly, meaning they can easily be starved by other faster-growing plants.

The greatest threat to its survival in Britain comes from an Argentinian pathogen named Phytophthora austrocedrae.

Although unknown in the UK until recently, Plantlife records up to 63% of bushes surveyed showing signs of infection.

Deborah Long, head of Plantlife Scotland, said: "Volunteer citizen science surveys are helping us understand what is happening to juniper in Scotland.

"We know juniper populations are struggling, but they now face an additional threat. It is thanks to these citizen scientists who have been helping us monitor the species, that we can start working with land owners to help juniper communities become more resistant to the threats they face, including this new disease.

"We need to ensure juniper has a future. It needs active conservation effort and intervention now for it to survive."

Juniper is one of only three conifers native to Britain, the others being Yew and Scots Pine.

The Plantlife survey was supported in part by No 3 London gin.