Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

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Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng.


Life form: shrub
Usage: economic plant / Usage: ornamental plant

Exposure: sun - Exposure: half shade   2

Moisture: dry bis Moisture: moderately moist

Soil: sand - Soil: gritty-sandy - Soil: sandy loam - Soil: gritty loam

Arrangement: alternate
Leaves: evergreen

Shape: obovate

Division: simple

Shape: pitcher-shaped
Fruit: berry

49D / f0c9d6 

Inflorescence: raceme

Petals: single
Habit: nodding

Growth form: prostrate



Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, commonly known as kinnikinnick, common bearberry, is a evergreen, prostrate dwarf shrub.


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi was already described and the name validly published by Carl Linnaeus. It was Curt Polycarp Joachim Sprengel, however, who reclassified it into todays valid botanical systematics in 1825.


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is a species in the genus Arctostaphylos which contains approximately 101 to 127 species and belongs to the family of the Ericaceae (Heath Family).


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - flowers
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - branches
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - fruits


The comparatively long-lived shrubs reach heights of 10 to 20 centimetres, they have a prostrate habit and produce multiple stems. The main growing season is in spring and summer. The plants reach a width of 1 to 1.5 metres.

Wood and Bark

The bark is scaly and reddish brown.


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is evergreen. The green, simple leaves are alternate. They are obovate and petiolate with entire margins and reticulate venation. The surface of the leaves is glabrous. The foliage is porous.

Flowers and Fruits

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi produces showy racemes of nodding, light pink pitcher-shaped flowers from April to June. The plants flower on last years shoots. They are hermaphroditic.

From summer to autumn the shrubs produce ornamental red berries that are persistent on the plant.

Root System


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is native to the whole of Europe, the Caucasus, West-Siberia, East Siberia, Alaska, Canada, the Northeast of the US, the central Northeast of the US, the northern Prairie States of the US, the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest of the US, the Northwest of the US, California and Greenland.


The shrubs prefer a sunny to half-shady situation on dry to moderately moist soil. The substrate should be sandy, gritty-sandy, sandy-loamy or gritty-loamy and comparatively poor with a pH between 5,5 and 8. The plants need a soil depth of at least 25 centimetres for good growth. They tolerate temperatures down to -45°C (USDA zone 2) and need a frost-free period of at least 20 weeks.

Tolerance of special soil conditions

  • none: anaerobic soil
  • medium: soil salinity, calcareous soil
  • high: drought


The ornamental value of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi lies especially in the attractive autumn aspect. The recommended planting distance is 20 to 25 centimetres, the shrubs are best planted in groups of 3 to 5. Suited for moorland gardens and for rockeries, as well as suited as cemetery plant and as groundcover.

Maintenance and Propagation

The plants need little to no maintenance if grown under suitable conditions.

  • Winter protection from black frost.

Propagate by sowing. The seeds require vernalization. Also by cuttings.


Pests and Diseases

Irregular swelling, so-called 'galls', may be caused by insects, mites, fungi or bacteria. Destroy affected parts. To prevent infection avoid injuring the plants and improve drainage.

Brown, orange or yellowish pustules on shoots and on the leaves lower surfaces are very likely caused by a fungal infestation (rust). Remove affected parts and apply fungicide. Also improve ventilation and reduce humidity.


  • Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold: Der große Zander. Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7. (Ger.)
  • Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief): RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003, ISBN 0-7513-3738-2.

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