Maybe we were all just too intoxicated to notice, but over the past half-decade, we avoided a major alcohol catastrophe: Juniper berries, the primary flavoring ingredient in gin, were in danger of possibly going extinct in the UK. But thanks to some hardworking scientists who put saving gin at the top of their priority list, the world won’t be forced to throw out its otherwise worthless supply of tonic.
According to The Guardian, the UK juniper population has actually been under assault for quite some time. In 2011, a plant-killing fungus-like disease called Phytophthora austrocedri was first discovered in the UK, with more than half the trees in Scotland showing signs of the disease as of 2015. Add to this “problems including fragmented populations and difficulties regenerating successfully, as old trees and shrubs produce fewer seeds and young plants are eaten by deer and rabbits,” and the future of British gin was looking pretty bleak.
However, back in 2013, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew began banking seeds from trees in the UK. Understanding the importance of gin to British culture – I’ve lived here long enough to feel confident saying it’s basically the country’s third most popular drink after beer and Ribena – juniper seeds were put at the top of the priority list and now juniper is the first species to by fully saved thanks to about 50 collections in all. The next step is to study these seeds and save gin (and I guess junipers in general, if that’s what you’re into) from future extinction.
“2016 has been a fantastic year for the UK national tree seed project and I’m delighted to hear that we’ve fully collected and conserved our native juniper species,” Richard Deverell, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, was quoted as saying. Ahem! Uh, how about you follow that up with a toast? Maybe… with a… you know… Do I really have to explain this to you?!