Herb: Alpine Bearberry

Latin name: Arctostaphylos alpina

Synonyms: Arbutus alpina, Arctous alpina

Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Medicinal use of Alpine Bearberry:

An infusion of the pounded plant has been used as an external wash in the treatment of rheumatism and general illnesses. A decoction of the bark is used in the treatment of internal blood diseases. The leaves are narcotic and have been smoked to cause intoxication.

Description of the plant:


5 cm
(2 inches)

to June

Habitat of the herb:

Mountain moors and stony places on calcareous Alps up to 2500 metres.

Edible parts of Alpine Bearberry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Very juicy but slightly bitter. Another report says that they are juicy but insipid. The flavour is much improved by cooking. Not as nice as many other wild fruits, but nor are they unpleasant. The fruit is about 6 - 9mm in diameter, it is not usually produced very freely.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown in a shady position in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak dried seed and sow as early in the year as possible. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 3 months at 15C. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in greenhouse or cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of side shoots, 5 - 8cm with a heel, August to December in a frame. Takes one year. Division in early spring. Take care because the plant resents root disturbance. Pot the divisions up and keep them in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are growing away actively. Layering in spring.

Cultivation of Alpine Bearberry:

Mountain moors and stony places on calcareous Alps up to 2500 metres.

Known hazards of Arctostaphylos alpina:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.