Common juniper

(Juniperus communis subsp. nana)
Short shrub, hemispherical or semi-elliptical, up to 40 cm tall.
Sophia Siggiridou_ Kostas Vidakis, MSc

Distribution of the species

Species of high altitudes. Found on sub-alpine mountain slopes, from about 1,400 to 1,950 m asl.

Description of the species (biological and ecological features)

Short shrub, hemispherical or semi-elliptical, up to 40 cm tall. With needle-like, very small (up to 12 mm long) leaves, densely arranged, stiff, highly pointed, with a usually white line on their upper side. The spherical appearance of the dwarf juniper, resembling mattresses in circular layers, functions as a lie-on-me invitation. You are being warned not to try it, unless you are a fakir! The fruit is small, almost spherical, taking two years to ripen, when its green color turns blackish with a blue coating. The dwarf juniper is a subspecies of a parent species with a wider distribution. It occurs in alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems, in places with limestone rocky substrate, adapted to harsh environmental conditions. Resistant to low temperatures and frost, it is one of the most durable woody species, as it withstands temperatures as low as -10 °C, even during the growing season. However, it is not resistant to drought, which is the most probable cause of the decline of its population in the Mediterranean, and to wildfires. Needles, twigs and bark are food for the hare at high altitudes.

Although occurring at high altitudes and hence in a relatively limited area, the species does not appear to be threatened by any factors. Road construction in the subalpine areas could reduce the size of its population.


Conservation status

Least Concern.

Conservation state

Dwarf juniper is assigned to the “LC-Least Concern” category by the IUCN, which does not necessarily mean that the species is safe or should not be protected. It rather means that the species “is not in immediate danger of extinction if the current conditions are maintained”. It is not subject to any national or international protection regime. A dominant species of shrublands of the alpine and sub-alpine zone, which includes small, low or upright formations on slopes with slopes exceeding 30%. These shrubs are a habitat of European interest with code 4060 (Alpine and boreal heaths) and are protected by the 92/43/EEC Directive.