Juniper trees under threat

It’s hard to imagine the British summer without gin and tonics, served with a squeeze of lime and plenty of ice. But scientists fear that our national drink could be rendered a thing of the past by a marauding fungus.

Juniper trees, whose berries give the spirit its distinctive aromatic flavour, are falling victim to Phytophthora austrocedrae, which causes foliage to wither away and bark to dry up.

It’s thought that some 45% of Scottish junipers could be wiped out by the fungus, and although the majority of gin producers rely on trees from Eastern Europe, the British population’s survival is crucial to the future of the entire species.

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The tree, one of only three native British conifers, is in ‘is in serious trouble’, according to Plantlife. The charity has now teamed up with the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage to assess the extent of the problem.

Volunteers are being asked to record sightings of juniper bushes: those with an orange or brown hue may be infected with Phytophthora austrocedrae.

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Juniper image © Andrew Gagg/Plantlife