IX: Juniper

How the juniper berry led to the first opioid crisis.

IX: Juniper
Juniper berries. Photo by Alexey Kurilovich / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is nonidi, the 9th of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le genièvre, a shrub that grows potent little berries.

There's a species of North American juniper known as Mountain Juniper that is commonly misidentified as cedar. It wreaks absolute havoc on humans. Because junipers are dioecious, meaning they are either male or female, pollination is a bit more complicated than asking an insect to bounce things around a bit. The male trees carpet bomb their forest with windborne pollen that is particularly small, and do so in absolutely epic amounts, creating visible clouds that move through the air and clog everything, including people's airways. In the American southwest, even people with no other plant allergies will suffer from classic allergy symptoms during so-called "cedar season."

Okay, so the male trees are a problem. What about the ladies? Oh, they only tried to murder half the population of London.

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