Alpine bearberry Arctostaphylos alpina

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See May, June
Colour Red
Habitat Woodland, Heathland, Wetland

Also known as mountain bearberry or black bearberry, this dwarf shrub is the County Flower of Orkney.

Unlike its relative, the common bearberry, alpine bearberry is not evergreen; its toothed leaves wither and die in the winter. However, before they go they turn a spectacular shade of crimson red - quite literally going out in a blaze of glory!

The bearberries themselves start green, turning red and finally black when ripe.


As a plant of polar and mountainous regions, the alpine bearberry is largely confined to Scotland.


High latitudes and mountains. Its natural habitats are moorland, birch and pine dry forests and hummocks covered in moss next to bogs.

Best time to see

Flowers appear in May and June, although its burst of crimson in late autumn is also worth a look.

Did you know?

Alpine bearberries are edible. The Koyukan people of Alaska store them in oil to eat over the winter, often with fish. In the heather family, this plant forms a symbiotic relationship with fungus roots. The plants receive better nutrition, especially phosphorus, from the soil through the fungus. The alpine bearberry lives with familiar edible mushrooms.