categoryZUnderShrubs UnderShrubs List 
categoryZEvergreen Evergreen List 

CROWBERRY

Empetrum nigrum

Heather Family [Ericaceae]

Flowers:
month8apr month8april month8may

Berries: berryZpossible        berryZbrown berryZblack  (edible raw, cooking enhances flavour)
berry8may berry8jun berry8june berry8Jul berry8July berry8Aug berry8Sep berry8Sept berry8Oct berry8nov berry8dec

category
category8UnderShrubs
category
category8Evergreen
status
statusZnative
flower
flower8pink
inner
inner8white
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8round
sex
sexZdioecious

10th June 2009, Base Brown, Seathwaite, Borrowdale. Photo: © RWD
A very low-growing plant with woody lower stems. The leaves are glossy green, short, stubby and fleshy similar to those of some Stonecrops. The small pink, five-petalled Flowers are borne in the axils of the leaves. There is just one in the photo, in bud, centre near the top.


10th June 2009, Base Brown, Seathwaite, Borrowdale. Photo: © RWD
The stubby leaves of Crowberry spiral all the way up and around the stem. Loves growing on mountains amidst Bearberry (the leaves of which are in the photo, top and left of centre).


9th April 2009, Cairngorms, Scotland. Photo: © Derek Mayes
The berries of Crowberry start off green, then progress through pink and purple finally turning black. There is one extreme right; they are larger than the red berries of Bearberry (bottom right).


9th April 2009, Cairngorms, Scotland. Photo: © Derek Mayes
Two Crowberry berries in the photo, one purple, the other black. [The red ones belong to Bearberry]. Two buds of Crowberry are just in the frame and about to open (top and right)


A sub-species exists: Mountain Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum) which is shorter and grows in high mountainous areas, especially in Scotland. On the sub-species, male and female parts of the flower are on the same plant, hence the name hermaphroditum, whereas on Crowberry itself they are on separate plants.

Slight resemblance to : The leaves are similar to those of Biting Stonecrop, English Stonecrop and White Stonecrop in that they are short, stubby and fleshy.

Not to be confused with: Cowberry [a plant with similar name, which also belongs to the same Family].

Uniquely identifiable characteristics: Although the berry can look similar to that of Bearberry or Arctic Bearberry when pink or purple, it is slightly larger, and ends up black rather than the red of Bearberry.

Distinguishing Feature : It is the evergreen leaves which are short, stubby, glossy green and fleshy that give it away most easily.

The flowers of this evergreen undershrub are very small and reside in the axils of the (short) bulbous leaves. They are pale pinkish and have five petals. It is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants (except for the sub-species ssp. hermaphroditum which is hermaphroditic). The fruit is a large black berry which is green at first turning pink then purple before ending up black.

Crowberry used to belong all on its own in the Crowberry Family (Empetraceae), but that has now been abandoned and Crowberry transferred to the Heather Family.

The juice from the berries has a high concentration of purple and black anthocyanin dyes which can be used for colouring foodstuffs etc. The berry is edible raw, but cooking enhances the flavour, and it can be used in jams and tarts. The berries will remain on the plant until the spring unless picked, and are still edible. Vitamin content is low as are volatile odorous liquids, the berries are nearly aromaless.


  Empetrum nigrum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Ericaceae  

Distribution
 family8Heather family8Ericaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Empetrum
Empetrum
(Crowberry)

CROWBERRY

Empetrum nigrum

Heather Family [Ericaceae]

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