Bearberry is a winter hardy low growing shrub native to northern Europe, Asia, and North America (circumpolar). Found in all provinces in Canada, it grows at various elevations, in mixed woods, sandy shorelines, and on rocky slopes. Bearberry forms large mats and can be used as a groundcover to control erosion. It's also tough, does well in poor soil, and drought tolerant once established.
Dark green, thick, tear drop shaped leaves are evergreen (remain year round) and turning bronze in the winter. Young stems are reddish and pubescent; older stems more smooth, peeling, and brown to gray in colour.
In April to July, small clusters of white, pink, or pink tipped flowers appear. They grow on tips of branches, resembling narrow drooping bells. Bright red showy fruit forms in late summer and persist into the winter. The fruit is edible and becomes sweeter when cooked, but generally mealy and not very tasty.
Bearberry is a great food source for wildlife including birds, butterflies, bears, deer, and other mammals. The name 'bearberry' refers to bears enjoying the fruit of the plant.
Traditionally, bearberry leaves have been used by natives in their 'smoke mix'. Roots and leaves can also be made into a tea for medicinal use. The main modern use for bearberry leaves is medicinally as a diuretic.
Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Bearberry. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/plant/dicotyledon
Canadian Wildlife Federation. (n.d.). Bearberry. Retrieved from https://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/encyclopedias/flora/bearberry.html
Missouri Botanical Garden. (n.d.). Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Retrieved from https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=j380
Province of Manitoba. (n.d.). Bearberry, Uva-ursi, Kinnikinnick. Retrieved from https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/crop-management/bearberry.html