Bearberry is a small evergreen groundcover, which can be used to turn barren sections of yard alive again. It does best in dry to medium sandy or gritty infertile soil, and requires no fertilizer. It likes open exposed areas and thrives in slightly cooler climates, preferring zones 2-6, and isn’t recommended for areas south of zone 7. In mid-spring it develops white/pink flowers, which give way to bright red berries in late summer/early fall. The berry-like fruits called drupes, are edible but tasteless to humans, however birds and small mammals love them! The foliage for this plant is thick and hardy, and is generally evergreen, lasting 1-3 years before falling off and being replaced.
Bearberry can be slow-growing but is long-lived in the right conditions, and over time will spread to be 3-6′ wide. It had a number of different uses by the Native Americans – making dyes, as a food source, medicinal teas and smokes; but remember to always do your own research. Bearberry is the host plant to the lovely Freija Fritillary butterfly (pictured above).