bearberry, any plant of the northern and alpine genus Arctostaphylos of the family Ericaceae (heath family), especially A. uvaursi, a trailing evergreen sometimes cultivated as a ground cover. The small, leathery leaves yield a medicinal astringent and a dye. They were used for tobacco by the Native Americans, who also utilized the mealy red berries for food and beverages. This Northern Hemisphere genus is most abundant in arid areas, where many of the shrubby species (called manzanita in the West) are common chaparral plants. Other plants are also sometimes called bearberry. Bearberry is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Ericales, family Ericaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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