SUSTAINABLE SPIRITS: SAVING THE JUNIPER PLANT
Juniper is very close to our hearts at Arbikie. Not only does it provide a home for birds, mammals, insects, fungi and lichen but it is also critical in the production of our gin!
Believe it or not, it’s not just us that think juniper is special. It’s importance in the ecosystem has been recognised by various bodies resulting in it being listed as a key woodland species in the Scotland’s Forestry Strategy and in the UK Biodiveristy Action Plan. Despite gin having a high old time of it at the moment, the juniper plant hasn’t had things quite so good. Although this evergreen is native to the UK and able to grow in a wide range of habitats, the population has been steadily declining thought to the result of grazing, changing weather and a pathogen called Phytophthora austrocedrae, which infects the plant via the roots.
The historical juniper population within the UK is mainly the result of self-sowing, the ‘berries’ catching the eye of birds which, on eating, distribute the seed to new areas. When it comes to common juniper, however, even this is more complicated than it sounds. The plants are wind pollinated but also dioecious - this means there are separate male and female trees so the pollen from the male flowers has to hope there’s a female flower somewhere downwind for any cones to form. If luck is looking favourably the green female flowers have to avoid being eaten or damaged for at least 18 months as they ripen into the purple, black berry-like cones that we associated so strongly with gin.
Taking all of this into consideration we decided that we didn’t want to make things even harder for this now rare evergreen so in 2015 we decided to start building up our own juniper plantation. Since the spring of 2015 we’ve planted on average 600 plants each year but we’d like to take this to the next level with your help!
For every bottle of gin purchased from our website we proudly pledge to plant one more juniper plant!