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Portland, OR

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Portland Nursery

ARCTOSTAPHYLOS: Kinnikinnick

Arctostaphylos species can be found in two distinct plant categories: groundcovers and shrubs. Evergreen, with reddish brown bark and small, leathery upright leaves; bell shaped flowers that are telltale of their relationship to the heather (Erica) family hang in white to pinkish clusters. Pea-sized berries follow; red or blue-black depending on species, and are attractive to a variety of birds for winter food.

All the native members of the Arctostaphylos clan prefer full sun, though some are willing to tolerate a little shade. Good drainage is a must, both for healthy growth and to ward off fungal disease. Once established, they are quite drought-tolerant.

KinnikinnickArctostaphylos uva-ursi – Kinnikinnik, or Bearberry. Kinnikinnik is an outstanding evergreen groundcover native to many parts of the world and one of the more cold-tolerant species of Arctostaphylos. It is a perfect groundcover for open, dry sunny spots. It is slow to start its growth (be sure to mulch around them when newly-planted to help suppress weeds until it fills in), but will eventually reach out its long branches, rooting wherever the stems touch the soil and form a dense evergreen mat that is useful for controlling erosion when planted on banks or slopes.

Because of its tough nature, it is frequently used along highways and roadway embankments. It is highly tolerant of most any condition except shade and soggy soil.

The clusters of flowers attract both bees and hummingbirds; the bright red berries offer dots of color to the winter garden as well as providing a cold-weather food source for a variety of song birds.

Arctostaphyylos columbiana

Arctostaphylos Columbiana – Hairy Manzanita This is the most common shrub-version of Actostaphylos growing in our region. The word “Manzanita” means “little apple” in Spanish, and aptly describes the flattened round fruit that appears in late June and can persist until the following spring, providing a long season of food for birds visiting your garden.

Relatively slow growing to 3-10’; in the wild it is found only occasionally in drier areas along the western slopes of the Coast and Cascade ranges, more commonly east of the Cascades and in southern Oregon

Arctostaphyylos mediaArctostaphylos media – Media Manzanita
This is the seemingly unlikely but nevertheless successful cross between A. uvi-ursi and A. Columbiana, occurring everywhere the two parent species co-exist. It is indeed a compromise of its parents, reaching a height of only about 3’.

Some of the other native species, found in the arid regions of eastern and southern Oregon, are A. canescens (hairy manzanita), A. viscid (white-leaved manzanita), A. parvifolia (small-leaved manzanita), A. standfordiana var. hispidula (rough manzanita) and A. patula (green Manzanita) 

Note: While the groundcover Arctostaphylos is commonly grown and available for sale in nurseries, the shrubbier forms are much harder to find. It is possibly their need for excellent drainage combined with their slow rate of growth that may be compromised by the “nursery container culture.”

Or it may be something else entirely. However, they are worth searching out if you have the place to grow them, for with proper planting and site conditions they are all very garden worthy and would make a beautiful addition to the landscape.

(There are also several cultivars of both the groundcover and shrub forms of Arctostaphylos, more readily available in nurseries and that you might consider.)
Arctostaphylos

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Kinnikinnick

FACTS: ARCTOSTAPHYLOS

Family: Ericaceae

Genus: Arctostaphylos (ark-tow-STAF-i-los)

Common name: Kinnikinnick, Manzanita, Bearberry

Native range: Found at low to high elevations throughout our region, depending on species.

Characteristics: small, oval and leathery green leaves, white to pink urn-shaped flowers followed by red berries. Evergreen. Many of the shrub forms develop beautiful peeling bark as they mature, providing year-round garden interest.

Culture: prefers full sun, very well-drained soil. Good rock garden / Xeriscaping plant.

Pests/diseases: Not generally affected by pests or disease, though can fall prey to leaf gall due to aphids and fungus diseases due to retained moisture around the leaves.

Planting in soil with excellent drainage and irrigating in morning rather than evening will go a long way to preventing fungus; ladybugs and syrphid fly larvae are the beneficial insects especially effective against aphids.