Kinnikinnick, Pinemat Manzanita
– Heath family
Small, woody, procumbent, evergreen. this
plant typically grows in dense clusters, and is often mistaken by
novice foragers for wintergreen. Although once you are familiar
with both plants, it is easy to tell them apart. The leaves of Uva
Ursi are much smaller than those of wintergreen.
This procumbent plant is typically 2 - 6"
The broad evergreen leaves are
approximately 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch long. Each leaf is a dark
shiny green on top with a pale light green underside. Individual
leaves have a rounded end which tapers back to the stem; this
gives them a teardrop shape. They are arranged alternately along
the stem, and feel thick and stiff, almost leathery. In fall,
the leaves change from a dark green to a reddish-green to
Erect branching twigs emerge from long,
flexible, woody, prostrate, stems are produced by single roots.
The trailing stems will layer, sending out small roots
periodically. If the plant is growing in full sun, the newer
stems may be red in color; if however the plant is growing in
shade the stem will be green. Younger stems are pubescent,
meaning they are covered with a fine velvet. The color of the
young stems is white to pale green. As the plant ages the stems
will become smooth and the color turns to a reddish brown. The
stems of the oldest plants will become brown.
Singular roots produce each woody stem.
Longer trailing stems will periodically produce small additional
roots. This gives the plant a layered appearance.
Spring, May -
The perfect terminal clusters of small
urn-shaped flowers are white to pink, and bear round, fleshy
or mealy, bright red to pink fruits called drupes. This
smooth, glossy skinned fruit will range from 1/4 to 1/2 inch
in diameter. The fruit will persist on the plant into early
winter. Each drupe contains 1 to 5 hard seeds, which need to
be scarified and stratified prior to germination to reduce
the seed coat and break embryo dormancy. There is an average
of 40,900 cleaned seeds per pound
Small, round, mealy, bright red to
pink fruits called drupes replace the flowers of spring. This
smooth, glossy skinned fruit will range from 1/4 to 1/2 inch in
diameter, and will persist on the plant into early winter. Some
fruit not eaten by woodland creatures will remain until the
following spring. These drupes will be the most palatable as
they will absorb moisture from the snow. Each drupe contains 1
to 5 hard seeds.
The common name Kinnikinnick is and
Algonquian word meaning mixture and refers to the fact that
when mixed with other plants it was widely used for smoking.
Classified as circumpolar, meaning it tends
to congregate around the poles; this plant is widespread in the
moist fertile soils of northern latitudes. Its growth in lower
latitudes is limited to higher altitudes.
Wild Food Uses:
While the leaves and berries are
technically edible, I do not find either palatable. There are
many more delicious choices available in the same areas.
The following text is
meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or
treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other
qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of
any illness or injury.
This plant shines medicinally. It is
wonderfully antimicrobial, mildly diuretic, and strongly
astringent. It has been used for urinary tract complaints,
including cystitis and urolithiasis. An infusion may be made by
soaking the leaves in ethanol and then diluting with water.
Before the introduction of sulfa drugs and modern antibiotics,
Uva Ursi was among the few herbal drugs with antibacterial