Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, commonly known as Kinnikinnick, is a prostrate shrub with a spreading habit and evergreen foliage. The leaves are leathery, dark green above and paler below, with a rounded tip and a narrow base. The flowers are pinkish-white and urn-shaped, and the berries are bright red and edible, although mealy and tasteless.
Kinnikinnick is a low-water-use plant that thrives in the sun, part shade, or shade and can tolerate dry to moist soil moisture levels. It prefers acidic soils and can tolerate some level of calcium carbonate in the soil. This plant is highly drought-tolerant and can withstand both cold and heat.
In addition to its ornamental value, Kinnikinnick has a range of other uses. The fruit is a favourite among birds and other wildlife and was traditionally used by various indigenous groups for food and medicinal purposes. The Haida used it as a diuretic for kidney diseases and urinary tract infections, while the Okanogan-Colville cooked the berries with venison or salmon or dried them into cakes. In California, the berries were used to prepare a cider-like beverage. First Nations also smoked Kinnikinnick before tobacco was available.
Kinnikinnick has conspicuous flowers and interesting foliage, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. It also serves as a larval host for several butterfly species, including the Hoary Elfin, Brown Elfin, and Freija Fritillary.
Overall, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi or Kinnikinnick, is a versatile and useful plant that offers both ornamental and practical benefits.
Mat forming, Soil should not be compacted around the plants and they should not be fertilized.
General: Prostrate shrub with somewhat stoloniferous rooting stems, sometimes forming mats several meters wide; bark reddish to brownish, peeling off; stems ascending at the tip, 5-15 cm tall, minutely hairy, sometimes glandular.
Leaves: Alternate, evergreen, leathery, egg- to spoon-shaped, 1-3 cm long, 0.3-1.2 cm wide, rounded at tip, rarely pointed, narrowed basally, entire, glabrous to minutely hairy, especially on the margins and midrib, dark green above, paler below; stalks 2-5 mm long.
Flowers: Several in few-flowered terminal clusters; flower stalks 2-5 mm long, straight or curved, borne in the axils of hairy bracts; corollas pinkish-white, urn-shaped, 4-6 mm long, 5-lobed; calyces 1-1.5 mm long.