Bearberry or Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Bearberry or Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)This plant is a common evergreen shrub with reddish, scaly bark and thick, leathery leaves 4 centimeters (1 1/2 inches) long and 1 centimeter (1/2 inch) wide. The leaves are shiny, small, and feel thick and stiff.  The underside of the leaf is lighter green than the top side.  New stems on the Bearberry can be red if the plant is in full sun but will typically be green if the plant is located in the shade.  It has white or pink flowers in the spring and bright red fruits.

Bearberry pink flowersThe old English common names included Arberry, Bear’s Grape, Crowberry, Foxberry, Hog Cranberry, Mealberry, Mountain Box, Mountain Cranberry, Mountain Tobacco, Sandberry, and Upland Cranberry.

Where to Find: This plant is found in arctic, subarctic, and temperate regions, most often in sandy or rocky soil.

Bearberry plant grouping in the wildEdible Parts: Its berries are edible raw or cooked. You can make a refreshing tea from its young leaves or dry the leaves and save for medicinal tea bags.

Other Uses: Bearberry contains glycoside arbutin which has antimicrobial properties and acts as a mild diuretic.  It can be used to treat urinary tract infections.

Note: Large doses of Bearberry can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and severe back pain and should be avoided by children, persons with kidney disease, and pregnant or breast feeding mothers.

 

Bearberry leaves and berries (fruit)

Bearberry plant

Bearberry drawing showing the various plant components

Close-up view of Bearberry leaves and berry

Bearberry plant flowers

Bearberry plant

Bearberry plant

Bearberry plant growing in the wild

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