The red fruits of kinnikinnick as seen at the north spit at Cape Meares, Oregon Coast...........August 31, 2002.
Also known as bearberry or sandberry, kinnikinnick is an attractive, prostrate subshrub with long, creeping stems which may often be partly buried. Plants often form mats up to several meters wide and small ascending branches may reach heights of from 10-40 cm. The bark is reddish to brownish and is somewhat exfoliating. Although the older branches are glabrous, the younger twigs may have some hairs on them. The leaves are narrowly obovate with wedge-shaped bases and rounded leaf tips. The blades are 15-25 mm long and the petioles are short. The blades are glabrous although some hairs may be found along the midrib or along the margins.
The racemes are short and 3-8 flowered and arise from the axils of the small bracts. The pedicels are 2-3 mm long and angled. The calyx lobes are rounded and and up to one-quarter the length of the urn-shaped corolla. The corolla is white or pink and measures from 5-6 mm long. The fruit is a globose, bright red berry from 7-9 mm wide.
The similar Arctostaphylos nevadensis is found at mid to high altitudes in the mountains and has leaves with a tiny, short point at the tip.
Both plants are attractive, low maintenance ground covers for sunny areas which are easily obtainable from many commercial nurseries.
Kinnikinnick may be found near the coast or in open woods at lower elevations in the foothills and mountains.
Kinnikinnick may be found from Alaska south to coastal California and east to Labrador, the Middle Atlantic states, and as far south as New Mexico in the Rocky Mts. It is also found in Eurasia.