Kinnikinnick; Bearberry, Coastal; Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
At the Suwa’lkh School program we propagate native plants with the students both for sale and to help rehabilitate and reindiginize our forest. This amazing ground cover is not just beautiful, but has been used in many ways by First Nations all throughout the area.
Physical properties: Perennial, trailing groundcover, evergreen, 20cm tall, bright red fruit
Preferred conditions: Sandy and well drained exposed sites, dry rocky slopes, dry forest and clearings, from low elevation to alpine tundra. Does not need much of anythig but sun and space, will tolerate our winters no problem!
Edibility: Edible but mealy and rather flavourless, leaves were used for medicine (see below)
First Nation Uses: Dried leaves smoked as a part of a smoking mix. The leaves were chewed on to suppress thirst. Kinnikinnick fruit berries were also mashed to create a sealant on baskets.
In terms of medicinal use, the leaves were infused (by steeping them in water just above the boiling point to make tea) and drink it as tonic. This infusion could also be used as mouthwash for canker sores or weak gums. It was also made into a decoction (made by boiling the plant material in water) and drunk for colds and Tuberculosis. This decoction could also be used as wash for broken bones. Moreover, decoction of Kinnikinnick was used as eye medicine for sore eyes. Amongst the Haida, the leaves were used as a diuretic in kidney diseases and infections of the urinary passages.