Return of the Juniper

Thursday 3rd April 2014

Juniper planting. MWT

The Trust's Ramsey Forest project begins reintroduction of juniper to the island's uplands.

In 1947 the last Manx native juniper was dug up from Glen Auldyn to save it.

It died shortly afterwards and the story of the native Manx Juniper could well have stopped then, but in the 1990’s a single juniper bush appeared at the Sound, probably spread from seed carried in the belly of a migrating bird.

Unfortunately the juniper bush is what is called dioecious - that is, it requires male and female plants to reproduce, so a single chance reintroduction is not enough for the tree to become re-established.

Local history
The history of juniper on the Isle of Man goes back over 10,000 years when it was one of the first trees to colonise the Island after the last Ice-Age.

For a time it became a somewhat common tree until the climate warmed sufficiently for more vigorous, taller growing trees to grow. These would have pushed out the juniper to the uplands of the Island which were then largely cleared of woodland cover in the bronze ages.

It is almost surprising that the Juniper held on for another 3000 years in small pockets until finally becoming extinguished in 1947. This last decline was probably due to the conversion of the uplands from mixed grazing and crofting, to more intensive sheep ranching that was very well established by the 1940’s.

Reintroduction programme
Fast forward to 2014 and Ramsey Forest is launched by the Manx Wildlife Trust as a 30 year project to establish new woodlands around Ramsey.

One of our first actions has been to start to reintroduce viable Juniper populations to the Isle of Man.

Our first juniper grove has been planted in Glen Auldyn just a few hundred yards from where the last native tree was dug up nearly 70 years ago. To keep the first 50 juniper bushes company we have also planted rowan and hawthorn to create an authentic upland scrub. The tree planting was sponsored by the Manx Ornithological Society and established by local willing volunteers.

This new scrub at nearly 300m (900ft) is right on the edge of the upland moorland and so ideal for birds such short eared owl, hen harrier and whinchat to nest in as well as a refuge for birds and animals to shelter on stormy wet days.

It will take at least a decade before the juniper is properly established and producing berries, but by that time this grove should have been joined by many more until we reach a total of at least 500 bushes established in this area.

The Manx Wildlife Trust will also be working to establish other areas where Juniper can be re-established around the Island.

Tagged with: Ramsey forest, Wildflowers of Mann