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How to Identify Juniper Berries

baies 076 image by Jacques Ribieff from

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pick Juniper Berries?

bushes are popular shrubs that produce a bluish colored berry. Not all juniper berries are edible. In fact, some are poisonous. Other varieties of juniper such as the California juniper (Juniperus californica), hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, yield berries that are not poisonous but are bitter-tasting. Juniper berries ripen on a two- to three-year cycle. In the second year of the cycle, the berries often remain hard and green in color. Avoid harvesting juniper berries too early in the year. Alternately, you can use a berry picker or shake the bush until the berries fall off and land on a collecting tarp, but these methods remove the bitter green berries as well as the ripe blue berries.


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

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