Juniperus drupacea - Syrian Juniper

  • Posted on: 5 December 2018
Despite its name, most populations of this distinctive juniper are found in southern Asia Minor (Turkey) and only smaller stands or scattered individuals in Lebanon and Syria. One outlying population is also present in Europe – on southern (mainland) Greece, very briefly discussed below.
Botanically, Juniperus drupacea is so special that formerly it was treated in a separate genus (Arceuthos) and currently kept in its own section of juniper (Caryocedrus).
It is a robust plant among other junipers, having the widest needles and largest cones in the genus (with seeds united in a drupe), and with a unique appearance of pollen cones developing in fascicles of 3–6. To meet this plant in the wild is a treat for a botanical explorer.
At first we had the chance to see it in the western Toros mountains (October 1980), and noticed that in some cases the showy cones almost covered the red-brown ground under the small trees. 30 years later we documented the species at a different location in the same mountain range; the photos below marked with "Toros 2010/DAP" are from this trip.
The following notes are from our colleague Kálmán Huber (Pécs, Hungary), who worked with us on Conifers Around the World and recently visited the location of this plant in the Parnon mountains in Arkadhia (Peloponnesos Peninsula). In the lower ranges of the Parnon the vegetation is typically mediterranean maquis dominated by evergreen shrubs. Higher up, from about 800 m a.s.l., conifers take over, including Abies cephalonica and Pinus nigra subsp. pallasiana, with evergreen oaks in the shrub layers. Locally, around 900 m, especially near Malevis Monastery, Juniperus drupacea is a dominant element with many trees reaching 10 m in height and trunk diameters up to 70 cm. Photographs from this location by Kálmán are marked "Parnon, H.K."