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Thursday, May 23, 2013






Thursday,  8:00 AM.  s40 degrees F, wind NE, light with stronger gusts  The sky is almost cloudless except for a band of cumulous clouds far on the eastern horizon.  The barometer is way up, at 30l.88 in., and the humidity is lower, at 76%.  It is a fine morning and things should dry out some today.
   Local streams (Pike's Creek, Onion River, Sioux River, Fish Creek) are running high and overflowing their banks.  All are running red with sand, silt and clay mud,  causing much of Chequamegon Bay to be discolored.
   The  common spreading juniper (Juniperus communis var. compressa) is native to sandy, rocky and other poor soils throughout Canada, the Northeast and around the Great Lakes, as well as high mountains.  Locally it is occasionally seen on roadsides, beaches and barrens.  It has sharp green needles each with a prominent white stripe.  It bears male and female cones on different plants.  They are wind pollinated, and the fruit (actually a single seed with a fleshy fruit-like covering) is green ripening to blue, and tastes like gin (which is flavored with juniper berries). Juniper berries are not pulpy enough to really be a human food source, but their distinct flavor makes them useful in cooking. Native Americans used the plant for many purposes, including ceremonial, and medicinally as a treatment for colds, etc.  European herbal medicine makes considerable use of the volatile oil of the berries as a diuretic.  
   Common juniper is a low, spreading evergreen shrub, which is not rare but which I find  rather uncommon in our area. It's variations and selections in the nursery trade  are much used as foundation plantings in the home landscape but I doubt the native plant itself is much so used today, but  the common juniper certainly has usefulness in landscaping with native plants and ecosystem restoration.
  Finally, I have to thank reader Pat Weeden for sending me a hard cover copy of "Firestorm at Peshtigo." I had purchased the paperback copy from our Bayfield bookstore, and when I received the copy from Pat they were good enough to take it back and exchange it for another book.  So, Pat, I owe you, once again!

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