Northern Ontario Plant Database
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng.
En: common bearberry, kinnikinnick, mealberry, sandberry
Ericaceae (Blueberry Family)
General: A perennial dwaft shrub with long-trailing woody stems that often form extensive colonies and have papery bark that peels (exfoliates) easily. The erect, green to reddish-brown, leafy shoots grow 5-15 cm tall and may be finely hairy or glandular.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, evergreen, leathery (coriaceous), short-petiolate. Leaf blades oval to obovate, 1-3 cm long and 0.6-1.2 cm wide; upper surface dark green, somewhat shiny to glossy; underside paler; base tapering (cuneate); apex rounded; margins entire and turned under slightly (revolute).
Flowers: Bisexual, nodding, occurring in dense terminal clusters (racemes) with up to 12 flowers. Calyx 5-lobed, small; corolla urn-shaped (urceolate), to 6 mm long, with 5 very short lobes that are slighly recurved and usually pink; stamen 10, included within the corolla, anthers bearing 2 awns; ovary compound, superior. Flowers bloom from May to June.
Fruit: A globose, red, berry-like drupe, 8-10 mm in diameter, with several small nutlets. Fruits are edible but mealy in texture and lack much taste.
Habitat and Range: Occuring in dry, sandy, rocky, and well-drained sites, especially rock barrens and alvars, sandy shores, margins of forests. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is widely distributed across northern North America and Eurasia; it occurs throughout Ontario.
Internet Links: The Arctostaphylos uva-ursi webpage from the Shrubs of Wisconsin website.
The Arctostaphylos uva-ursi webpage from the Saskatchewan Native Plants/Wildflowers website.
Similar Species: Formerly placed in the genus Arctostaphylos, the alpine and red bearberries have now been placed in the genus Arctous. Both of these species have veiny, thinner-textured leaves with low to rounded teeth along the leaf margins (crenate-serrate), while Arctostaphylos has smooth, coriaceous leaves with entire margins. The alpine bearberry (Arctous alpina) has a dark purplish-black berry-like fruit, ciliate leaf margins, and occurs in peaty, arctic-alpine barrens, shores, and tundra, usually on non-calcareous substrates, while the red-fruited red bearberry (Arctous rubra) occurs only on calcareous barrens, gravels, and bedrock, its fruits are much juicier than the mealy fruit of the common bearberry. The alpine and red bearberries are restricted to the Hudson Bay Lowlands, extending south to only 53° N in Ontario.
– written by Derek Goertz & Susan J. Meades
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