Fungus threatens the gin and tonic

It's the first day of summer, and devotees of the classic hot weather elixir are staring down a disease that is wiping out juniper berries. No juniper, no gin.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
If they remake Casablanca, Rick's lament could be that there are NO gin joints in all the world.


It's the first day of summer, and devotees of the gin and tonic are staring down a disease that threatens to obliterate their classic hot weather elixir.

Yes, mother nature is playing party pooper again. This time, she's spreading a fungus that is attacking juniper trees, which yield the berries that give gin its flavor. No juniper, no gin.

"Juniper is in serious trouble," said Plantlife Scotland, a Scottish charity supported by Prince Charles that has asked the public to help monitor the decline of juniper trees in Britain. The U.K's Forestry Commission is also on the case of the conifers.

Not so merry berries. The juniper berry, from coniferous juniper plants and trees, faces a fungal enemy.

Among the problems: A fungus called Phytophthora austrocedrae is so much on the rampage that according to The Telegraph it could "wipe out" the already shrinking population of the U.K.'s native juniper trees.

"Although juniper used in most commercial gins is largely from Eastern Europe nowadays, the British population is key to survival of the whole species," the Telegraph claimed.

Shudder at the thought of a world with no gin. Tennessee Williams, The Great Gatsby, Somerset Maugham and Raymond Chandler could not have done without. James Bond would lose his signature refreshment, as his martinis feature gin and vodka.

Gin gave Dutch Courage to 17th century soldiers before battle - the word "gin" comes from, among other sources, the Dutch "jenever" for juniper.

In a life bereft of junipers, there never would have been a gin joint for Humphrey Bogart's Rick to lament in Casablanca.

Gin drinkers of the world unite! Fight back against Phytophthora! As a side benefit, the sooner you stamp it out, the sooner you won't have to pronounce it.

Photos: Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca from Filmfoodie. Juniper berries from MPF via Wikimedia.

Fight fire with fire. Send Puya chilensis against Phytophthora austrocedrae:

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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