Bearberry belongs to the genus Arctostaphylos. The genus of this plant is derived from the Greek words arctos which means bear, and staphyle, which means a bunch of grapes, about the fruit commonly eaten by bears. It is also known as Arberry, Arbutus, Bear’s Berry, Bear’s Berry, Bear’s Grape, Carillo, Chipmunk’s Apples, Coralillo, Crowberry, Foxberry, Hogberry, Kinnikinnick, Manzanita, Mealberry, Mountain Box, Mountain Cranberry, Mountain Tobacco, Pinemat Manzanita, Sagakomi, Upland Cranberry, Whortleberry. It is a low-growing evergreen.
These trees are extremely winter hardy, creeping, slow-growing, prostrate, woody evergreen shrubs typically grow to 2-8 inches. These plants are generally found in dry, non-nutrient soils like sand, soil on rock outcrops, and shallow soils. It ranges from Northern California to Alaska, east from Oregon and Washington to the mountains of western Montana, and south to New Mexico. Bearberries are pretty plentiful in the wild. Here are some of the fantastic facts about Bearberries which will surprise you.
Interesting facts about Bearberries
Types of bearberry – If we talk about the classification of these beautiful berries, then they can be classified into three types.
- Alpine bearberry
- Red bearberry
- Common bearberry
Alpine bearberry – Alpine bearberry is a shrub 10-30 cm high. If I think in inches, it ranges from 3.9-11.8 inches. The leaves of these alpine bearberries are not wintergreen. The most exciting thing is about the leaves. The dead leaves of Alpine bearberry remain persistent on the stem for several years. The berries appear in dark purple to black.
Red bearberry – The Red bearberry is a shrub 10-30 cm high. If you think in inches, it ranges from 3.9-11.8 inches. The leaves of red bearberry are deciduous. They fall in autumn to leave the stem bare of leaves and allow the new and tender leaves to grow in a good season.
As the name suggests, the berries appear to be red. They are well distributed in the parts of the mountains of Sichuan, southwestern China, north and east to eastern Siberia, Alaska, and northern Canada east to northern Quebec.
Common bearberry – These berries are slow growing in nature. These are woody evergreen shrubs about 2 to 8 inches in height. The leaves are pretty leathery in texture, and the length varies from 1/2 inch to an inch long, just like a spatula. They are rounded at the apex.
Amazing History – Anything on this earth that has ever survived has its history. A story of evolution, a story of survival, a story of existence, and a story of the past. Bearberries were first documented in The Physicians of Myddfai by Clusius in 1601. These were also recommended for medicinal use in 1763 by Gerhard and others. Often these red berries are called uva-ursi.
It is derived from the Latin word Latin uva, ” grape, berry of the vine, “ursi, “bear,” i.e., “bear’s grape.” These berries first appeared in the London Pharmacopeia in 1788. But we focus on the 21st century. These bear berries are extensively grown in every part of the world because of their extraordinary and magnificent appearance and delightful taste.
Floral distribution – Flowers are the most aesthetic part of a plant. It rejuvenates our mind, body, and soul. It is a source of happiness. Bearberries are angiosperms. That means they bear beautiful flowers. If we put an eye on the looks of the flower, then the flowers produced by the pale pink or white flowers are arranged in a terminal cluster.
The cluster is composed of 3 to 15 flowers. If we talk about the individual flower, then each particular flower is bell-shaped, composed of petals, and quite curled on the tips. The flower of the bearberry is monoecious or bisexual or contain both the reproductive organ in the same plant. These beautiful pale pink or white flowers blossom from April to May.
Fruit – If we think about the fruit of bearberry, then it has a distinctive red color. It is a berry-like drupe. The fruit or the bearberry is fleshy and filled with 1 to 5 stony seeds.
The drupes are green in summer, ripening to red in fall. Sometimes these plants also remain in the plants throughout the winter. If we think of taste, initially, we will guess that it is sweet, but unfortunately, they are bittersweet in taste and raw off the plants but taste more adorable when they are boiled first. The bearberry appears to be shiny, bright red or pink fruit, which is edible but quite tastes sour.
Technically, these drupes are edible to man but generally considered mealy and lacking flavor. On the other hand, birds, bears, and small mammals love this fruit.
Leaves Texture – The leaves of bearberry are of a leathery texture. The length of bearberry leaves varies from 1/2 inch to an inch long. It is the shape of a spatula as it is being rounded at the apex and tapering gradually towards the base to a very short stalk or petiole.
If we talk about the margin of the bearberry leaf, the entire margin is slightly rolled back, and the young leaves of these berries are fringed with short hairs. The upper surface of the leaf is dark, shining green, and the veins are deeply impressed, the lower side is of a paler green, and veins are prominent with a high coarse network. However, the leaves of bearberry do not have any distinctive odor, but they are astringent and somewhat bitter.
Plant looks – It will be pretty interesting to know about the description of the plant in bearberries. The bearberry is a winter hardy, creeping, slow-growing, prostrate, woody, evergreen ground cover shrub that flourishes beautifully in alpine forests of North America, Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, Siberia, and the Mighty Himalayas.
These plants grow slowly and have the capability to develop in places where others cannot grow, like in the walls of canyons. These beautiful plants prefer grassland, mountain summits and plateaus, ridges or ledges, and soul and barrens and require acidic, dry to medium well-drained, sandy, or gritty soils. It has very finely textured velvety branches, which are initially white to pale green and become smooth and red-brown with maturity.
Culinary purpose – These bearberries are also used for culinary purposes. They become sweet when they are cooked. They act as an excellent source of carbohydrates. These can also be used to make cooling drinks or used as preservatives. It can also be dried and stored for future consumption. You can prepare tea from the dry leaves of the bearberry. These bearberries are widely used in the human diet as jellies, jams, and of course, everyone’s favorite sauces.
Precautionary measures – Always remember that you should take bearberry for short periods. No berries longer than five days to be consumed. Don’t take a series of doses of bearberry more than five times a year. In the case of women, Pregnant or breastfeeding women, ladies suffering from high blood pressure should avoid blood pressure. People with Crohn’s disease, digestive problems, kidney or liver diseases, or ulcers should not take bearberry.
Large consumption of bearberries leads to nausea, green urine, bluish-gray skin, vomiting, fever, chills, severe back pain, etc. Sometimes it may worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease. Bearberries are highly beneficial to animals and humans. However, anything excess always causes damage to the body, that’s why it should be consumed in a balanced manner.
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