Kinnikinnick-Arctostaphylos uva ursi
This ground-trailing shrub has the papery, reddish, exfoliating bark typical of woody plants in northern climates. It is frequently seen as a ground cover in sandy areas such as the New Jersey pine barrens. It is very common on Cape Cod, where it covers vast areas in open, sandy, pine-studded communities. It is a hardy shrub for landscaping rocky or sandy sites. The fruit is edible but mealy and tasteless; it is much favored by birds and other wildlife. In Greek arctos is "bear" and staphyle "grape," whereas in Latin uva is "a bunch of grapes" and ursus is "bear." The berries are indeed eaten by bears, as the name redundantly indicates. Kinnikinnick, an Indian word for many tobacco substitutes, is most frequently applied to this species, which also had many medicinal uses, including the alleged control of several sexually transmitted diseases. An astringent tea can be made by steeping the dried leaves in boiling water (sometimes used as a laxative). A similar species found in the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada, Pinemat Manzanita (A. nevadensis), has a tiny sharp point at the tip of the leaf. One other species, Alpine Bearberry (A. alpina), is found on New England mountaintops.
A low, matted evergreen shrub with smooth, red-brown, woody trailing stems, leathery, dark green leaves, and small, pink, bell- or lantern-shaped flowers in racemes on short branches.Flowers: corolla 1/4" (6 mm) long, with 5 lobes around small opening. Bloom March-July.
Leaves: 1/4-1 1/2" (1.3-3.8 cm) long, wedge- or spatulate-shaped, widest near blunt tips, smooth, leathery, green on both sides.