Reports have emerged that the drink commonly associated with Dot Cotton, the ubiquitous gin and tonic, is now facing its biggest threat in over two hundred years.
It is thought that the juniper bush, which provides the berries that give gin its distinctive taste, could disappear entirely from Britain due to a number of factors, including changes to farming since the sixties and damage caused by the juniper berry mite. There are now calls to put conservation measures in place to protect the plant and the many other life forms which rely on the presence of the juniper bush for survival.
Gin first became popular on these shores over three hundred years ago, quickly developing into an epidemic of alcoholism amongst the great unwashed, famously providing inspiration for the hellish scenes depicted in William Hogarth’s Gin Lane engraving.
The sharp rise in popularity caused huge moral panic at the time, partly due to the fact that it was often mixed with nasty stuff like turpentine by poor folk, leading to the Gin Act which restricted its production in 1736.
Now with 70 per cert of juniper bushes already lost in some of the southern counties of England it is feared that if solutions are not found the plant could be wiped out within fifty years, according to the never-sensationalist Daily Mail.
In order to save the juniper bush conservation efforts will be required as it is a notoriously difficult plant to grow, needing plenty of bare soil space as it is easily overcrowded. Furthermore the plants are either male or female unlike most plants, so therefore need to be close to others of their species if they are to flourish.
According to Tim Wilkins of charity Plantlife the dangers faced are real as “juniper is going down the pan in lowland England.”
“Without action now, juniper faces extinction across much of lowland England within 50 years. The loss of juniper would represent more than the loss of a single species – it supports more than 40 species of insect and fungus that cannot survive without it,” Wilkins claims.