How to Identify Juniper Berries

Overview

Juniper berries flourish in the wild, and can be used for a number of things such as cooking, creating gin, and survival in the wild. When trying to identify juniper berries, there are a couple of key things to keep in mind so you don't mistake poisonous berries for edible juniper berries. These characteristics includes the growth area, appearance of plant and berries.

Step 1

Look for wide-open areas in the forest that receive full sunshine, where juniper plants can grow year-round. These berry plants don't need a lot of moisture or shade; they like dry conditions. Mountainous and desert conditions are most ideal for the plants.

Step 2

Observe the color of different plants in this area. The juniper berries will appear blue, slightly smaller then blueberries. They will grow in clusters at the ends of the branches, and emit a strong pine smell.

Step 3

Look for the characteristic shape and leaves of a juniper plan. It should resemble a short, fat evergreen, with leaves that are no longer than 2 cm long. The leaves are thin, green and pointy.

Step 4

Look and feel for sap. The dark sap of the juniper plant is very thick and sticky. Feel along the base, the trunk and the branches. Like the berries, it also smells like pine.

Step 5

Harvest the juniper berries once you have identified all these parts of the juniper tree. Carefully pick the clusters off the ends of the branches.

Step 6

Make sure you have a positive identification before you pick or eat any berry. Obtain, study and use a reliable, up-to-date field guide.

Tips and Warnings

  • Look for other characteristics, other than just the blue berries, to make sure that the plant is not a poisonous one.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening gloves (for protection)
  • Open area with plenty of sunlight
  • Shrub or tree
  • Sticky sap
  • Berries present

References

  • Herbs 2000: Juniper Berries
  • Tree Identification
  • Identifying and Using Juniper Berries

Who Can Help

  • Juniper Berry Picture
  • Wild Berry Field Guide Books
Keywords: juniper berry, identifying berries, finding juniper berries

About this Author

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.