Fallen Juniper Berries

The Alligator Junipers (Juniperus deppeana) in Molino Basin Campground are dropping their berries, and hundreds of their small, rounded, waxy berries are scattered under the trees.

Fallen Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana) berries

Alligator Juniper berries range in color from pale green to pale purplish to brownish. These "berries" are actually small cones, and they are an important food source for birds and mammals. Juniper berries, despite their strong, unpleasantly pungent flavor, are edible. When food was scarce, Native Americans here in the Southwest used to dry them, grind them into a meal, and fry them into patties.

Junipers are found in many parts of the World and have been used since ancient times for many traditional and medicinal purposes. In the past, Juniper berries were added to alcohol to make a health tonic. This "health tonic" is now known as gin, and juniper is still used to give this alcoholic beverage it's distinctive flavor.