Kinnikinnick or Bearberry arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Sp,DM,D,N)
6″ – 1′ H Native Mountain Groundcover with Late spring flowers in white and Pink in mats created by rhizomes.
- Full Sun – Part Sun
- Requires Acidic Soils
- Light soils, Sand, Loam, Gravel
- Moisture: Dry
- Host Plant to butterflies
- Attracts hummingbirds
Kinnikinnick is a pine forest staple. In the Colorado mountains you can find large areas of these plants in the Aspen groves of Kenosha Pass. In higher latitudes its known as bearberry where they grow in sandy or rocky, dry soils.
Propagation by Stem cutting, seed difficult
Stem cuttings taken in the fall are described as the best method of establishment. Seeds only propogate in years 1 and 5 year intervals. Seed establishment is difficult.
Role in Ecosystem
Fritillary and Elfin (Brown) butterflies use this plant as a host for its caterpillar stage.
It also provides nectar for hummingbirds.
Since kinnikinnick’s low-quality fruit spoils slowly, it lasts through winter and is available when other fruits are gone . The fruits of kinnikinnick are eaten by songbirds, gamebirds, including five species of grouse and wild turkey, deer, elk, and small mammals [49,89,134,148]. Black bear and grizzly bear eat kinnikinnick fruits in the autumn, but fruits are especially important to bears in the early spring [55,83,84,148]. In Montana, grouse may be attracted to very recent burns by fire-exposed kinnikinnick fruit . Hummingbirds take nectar from the flowers of kinnikinnick and have been observed to alight momentarily to probe low flowers .
Habitat Types and Plant Communities
Kinnikinnick is most often a dominant understory species in open pine forests under jack pine (Pinus banksiana), lodgepole pine (P. contorta), limber pine (P. flexilis), ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa) or pitch pine (P. rigida) [47,96,113,138,148]. It is also found in the understories of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), white spruce (Picea glauca), black spruce (P. mariana), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), aspen, and some eastern deciduous forests [6,30,96,134]. In the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains, it grows on steep, sunny, dry slopes [41,131]. It also grows in sand-dune areas of subboreal regions . Kinnikinnick is fairly abundant in the alpine zone of the Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains and may be dominant on stable, well drained, south-facing sites [10,27,31,32,33].