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bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Photos © John Hilty

Features and Behaviors

Bearberry is also known as kinnickinnick. This perennial, woody shrub forms mats that may be three feet wide. The evergreen leaves are arranged alternately along the stems. These simple leaves have a smooth, entire margin and are paddle-shaped. The red-tinted bark contrasts with the white or pink flowers clustered at the stem tip. Flowers are egg-shaped. The fruits are hard seeds covered with a red, fleshy material.

Bearberry grows on sand dunes, in black oak woods and on sandstone outcrops. It is most often found in the sand prairies and dunes along Lake Michigan, but it is also present in other locations in the northern one-fourth of the state and in Peoria and Tazewell counties. The plant flowers from June through August.

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae

Illinois Status: state endangered, native

Bearberry is endangered in Illinois because most places where the shrub formerly grew have been destroyed by urban growth or by shore erosion along Lake Michigan.