Grecian Juniper Woods

  • The priority habitat type 9562 *Grecian Juniper Woods (Juniperetum excelsae) has a limited distribution range and includes the juniper woods located in the western part of the Prespa National Park. In this part of the park more than 900 of the total 1,800 species and subspecies of plants occurring in the Park can be found, as well as 22 of the total of 49 habitat types that have been recorded in the area. Of these habitat types, four are a priority at European level, with the 9562 *Grecian Juniper Woods habitat type being one of them. 

    <span>The ancient juniper woods at Agios Georgios</span>
    The ancient juniper woods at Agios Georgios
    <span>The ancient juniper woods at Agios Georgios</span>
    <span>Sparse juniper woods</span>
    <span>Mixed juniper woods</span>
    <span>Mixed juniper woods</span>
  • Where does the Grecian Juniper Woods habitat type occur?

    Greece is the only member state of the EU in which juniper woods with the code 9562 have been recorded.  These are woods with the species Juniperus excelsa and J. foetidissima and within Greece they are only found in the Prespa National Park. However, Grecian juniper woods can also be found on the hills and mountains of the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin, the Black Sea and mountain ranges by the Caspian Sea. In the Balkan Peninsula the woods occur at an altitude of 100 - 1,200 m, while in Turkey they grow at altitudes of up to 2,200 m. The Prespa basin is home to one of the largest and most well-preserved areas of juniper woods in the Balkans, covering more than 2,000 hectares.

    In Greek Prespa, the highest priority sites are:

    a) The "ancient juniper woods" at Vrondero, due to good canopy cover in these woods and the great age of the trees.

    b) The "juniper woods" at the village of Psaradhes, due to the great age of the trees.

    c) The sparse juniper stands between Dhaseri and Angathoto, in which the flora exhibits a clearly Mediterranean–Sub-Mediterranean character, which is very rare for the altitude and geographical position. The flora includes species such as the turpentine tree (Pistacia terebinthus), and other significant plant species such as Lilium chalcedonicum.

    d) The "ancient juniper woods" at Agios Georgios and along the ridge up to the top of Mount Devas, in which there are very old junipers, and many important plant species such as the carnolian lily (Lilium carniolicum) have been identified.

  • Types and composition of Grecian Juniper Woods

    Grecian Juniper Woods do not have a uniform composition, but are divided into three different types:

    1. Juniper woods, or scrub, dominated by the species Juniperus excelsa and J. foetidissima
    2. Mixed juniper woods, usually with Macedonian oak (Quercus trojana subsp. Trojana), but also other broadleaved species
    3. Degraded juniper woods, which are essentially sparse juniper scrub

    The majority of Grecian Juniper Woods habitat in Prespa consists of sparse woods or scrub dominated by juniper, covering 1,143 hectares (52.14% of the total land area of the habitat), of which about 15 hectares have well developed, mature forest. The remaining areas either have a mixed composition, covering 989 hectares (45.11%), or they have very sparse juniper scrub, covering an area of 60 hectares (2.74%).

    The priority habitat type 9562 *Grecian Juniper Woods, is dominated by the species Juniperus excelsa (Greek juniper), though a large number of herbaceous species grow in this habitat type and at many sites a large number of broadleaved species appear to be invading. The floristic composition is unique and consists mainly of Greek juniper (Juniperus excelsa), prickly juniper (J. oxycedrus), stinking juniper (J. foetidissima), Macedonian oak (Quercus trojana subsp. trojana), ivy-leaved cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium), oriental hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), lilies (Lilium carniolocumL. calchedonicumL. candidum, etc.), irises (Iris germanicaI. pumila, etc.) red woundwort (Anthyllis vulneraria subsp. rubriflora) along with smaller numbers of many other species.

    Greek juniper(Juniperus excelsa) has shoots which are circular in section and hold squamous, or scaly, leaves. Unlike pine cones which have wooden scales, the scales on a juniper cone are fleshy and fused together, giving a ‘cracked glaze’ effect. When mature these berry-like seed cones, or fruits, are black with a powdery blue coating, the overall shade ranging from light to dark blue, depending on the colour of the coating. Each fruit has from 3 to 6 fertilised ovules, or seeds, which are a good characteristic by which to distinguish the species from the other ‘tame’ juniper in the region, Juniperus foetidissima (stinking juniper), which has 1 to 3 seeds in each fruit. The two species are thought of as ‘tame’ because they have leaves rather than needles, unlike prickly juniper (J. oxycedrus). The seeds are edible to animals and germinate better after passing through their digestive systems. Greek juniper grows to a maximum height of 20 m and lives for many years. It usually grows on rocky slopes and is resistant to drought and heat, though it is characterised by low productivity and rates of natural regeneration.

    In Prespa the Grecian Juniper Woods habitat type generally appears to have an excellent conservation status and excellent representativity, in other words the habitat is in a consistently excellent condition throughout its range. The exceptions to this are the areas where broadleaved species are invading the habitat, and in these places the conservation status is only characterised as good. In accordance with all the above, the Prespa National Park is acknowledged to be a very important area for the protection of priority habitat type 9562 *Grecian Juniper Woods.

For the year 1945 there is information only for the north-western part of the Prespa National Park.