Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - common bearberry

Not all red berries in the xeric heath forest are lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea); you may also find bearberries there. Bearberry is not that closely related to lingonberry even though they resemble each other and often thrive in the same areas. They can be distinguished by their shoots: bearberry shoots creep softly on the ground forming carpet-like patches; lingonberry shoots are erect.

Bearberry prefers arid, open forests, arid moors and xeric heath forests, on rock and sand. It favours the kind of rough granite that make up Arboretum Mustila’s rocks. On sufficiently arid locations bearberry can form beautiful vast pure populations. The red berries are edible but dry and mealy. It is in fact the arbutin-rich leaves that are more interesting in herbal medicine than the berries. They are used in pharmaceutical products e.g. for skin care. Common bearberry is an excellent ground cover for dry areas, especially in sunny forest gardens. In rich soil it cannot fight competition.


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