|Monday Melange: Bearberry|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 26 November 2012|
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and its sub-species, are low growing evergreen plants that are indigenous to the northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asia from USDA zones 2 to 6. In the US, bearberry’s range extends across a large portion of the northern US south to Illinois and Virginia and including the northern parts of all of the western states from New Mexico to California and north. Bearberry is a member of the Heath family (Ericaceae) family, an acid soil loving plant family.
Bearberry is also known by the name kinnikinnick, the Indian name for “tobacco substitute”. It is a perennial evergreen plant with woody stems and somewhat leathery leaves that is not quite a groundcover, but not quite a shrub, and for that reason is often classified as a sub-shrub. Like partridgeberry, its main attraction is the pretty red berries that appear in August and persist through winter that are, as the name suggests, eaten by bears as well as birds (not recommended for human consumption). The delicate flowers resemble other ericaceous plants such as rhododendrons, heath, and heathers, and are white tinged with pink.
A low growing prostrate shrub that grows 6 to 12 inches high and about 3 to 6 feet wide, bearberry is often found in sandy soils, thriving in the New Jersey and Long Island Pine Barrens, and Cape Cod, mountain tops, and bogs including the arctic tundra, which contains numerous bogs. Bearberry is listed as endangered in Illinois and Iowa, extirpated in Pennsylvania, presumed extirpated in Ohio, and rare in Indiana.