Kinnikinnick (Common Bearberry)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Photo: Nancy Turner

kinnikinnick

APPEARANCE

Kinnikinnick is a small, trailing, evergreen shrub with dark green leaves. Its bright red berries look like miniature apples and have a large hard seed.

RANGE & HABITAT

This plant is found on sandy, exposed sites, rocky slopes and in dry forest areas across much of B.C. In B.C., this plant grows in the Southern Interior and Sub-Boreal Interior ecoprovinces.

LIFE CYCLE

Kinnikinnick blooms in early May and June and produces berries that stay on the plant throughout the winter. It sometimes has growing and rooting stems that can form connections a few meters in length, and sprout up new plants.

ANIMAL USES

Birds and bears eat the fruit; grouse, moose and sheep eat the leaves.

TRADITIONAL FIRST NATIONS USES

Kinnikinick was smoked in a sacred pipe, carrying the smoker’s prayers to the Great Spirit. It was also made into a tea to treat inflammation of the urinary tract, kidney stones, back sprains and other infections. Native American tribes powdered the leaves and applied them to sores. The berries were made into a tea that was used to ward off obesity and eaten as emergency food.

MODERN USES

The leaves are used to help increase urine, and as an antiseptic for urinary tract infections. In Sweden and Russia the tannins in the leaves have been used for tanning leather.

STATUS

COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow

MORE INFORMATION

www.nativeplantsociety.org

Photo: Hobson