Kinnikinnick (Uva-ursi)

The Kinnikinnick (Uva-ursi) is generally described as a perennial subshrub or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Kinnikinnick (Uva-ursi) has dark green foliage and inconspicuous purple flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous red fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are retained year to year. The Kinnikinnick (Uva-ursi) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate.

The Kinnikinnick (Uva-ursi) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Bearberry serves a dual role on sandy soils, as both a beautification plant as well as a critical area stabilizer. The thick, prostrate, vegetative mat and evergreen character are what make bearberry a very popular ground cover. It is often planted around home sites, sand dunes, sandy banks, and commercial sites. The fruit it produces is eaten by a few species of songbirds and game animals. Deer will sometimes browse the foliage lightly.

General Characteristics

Pure stands of bearberry can be extremely dense, with heights rarely taller than 6 inches. Erect branching twigs emerge from long flexible prostrate stems, which are produced by single roots. The

trailing stems will layer, sending out small roots periodically. The finely textured velvety branches are initially white to pale green, becoming smooth and red-brown with maturity. The small solitary three scaled buds are dark brown.

The simple leaves of this broadleaf evergreen are alternately arranged on branches. Each leaf is held by a twisted leaf stalk, vertically. The leathery dark green leaves are an inch long and have rounded tips tapering back to the base. In fall, the leaves begin changing from a dark green to a reddish-green to purple.

Terminal clusters of small urn-shaped flowers bloom from May to June. The perfect flowers are white to pink, and bear round, fleshy or mealy, bright red to pink fruits called drupes. This smooth, glossy skinned fruit will range from 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. The fruit will persist on the plant into early winter. Each drupe contains 1 to 5 hard seeds, which need to be scarified and stratified prior to germination to reduce the seed coat and break embryo dormancy. There is an average of 40,900 cleaned seeds per pound.

Required Growing Conditions

Bearberry’s native range is from Labrador to Alaska, south to Virginia, Illinois, Nebraska, and in the mountains from New Mexico north through California to Alaska. This long-lived, low growing shrub is very cold tolerant. This plant prefers coarse well to excessively drained soils of forests, sand dunes, bald or barren areas. It does not tolerate moist or off-drained sites. Although bearberry is often found growing in the open on sand dunes, it grows well under partial shade of forest canopies.

Cultivation and Care

Bearberry can be propagated from seeds, softwood cuttings or pre-rooted stem cuttings. It is difficult to root this plant from bare cuttings in the greenhouse. Scarified seed sown in early summer will improve germination the following spring, but this technique is not as reliable as cuttings. Softwood cuttings should be harvested in late summer, and rooted stem cuttings are most successful when harvested during the dormant season. Successfully grown seedlings or cuttings should be handled carefully in containers; bare root plantings are rarely effective.

General Upkeep and Control

This shrub species requires very little maintenance once it has been established. Annual spring applications of 10-10-10 will increase the growth rate of bearberry, but will also increase weed growth. Weed growth must be controlled to sustain healthy stands of bearberry.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) There are no known varieties of bearberry available; local or regional selections are available from commercial nurseries.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Subshrub, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 0.5
Vegetative Spread Moderate
Flower Color Purple
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 10
Toxic to Nearby Plants Yes
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.5–8 pH
Precipitation Range 14–14 inches/yr
Planting Density 1746–10912 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 10
Minimum Frost-Free Days 140 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Medium
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention Yes
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA