Manzanita

Manzanita is a common name for many species of the genus Arctostaphylos. They are evergreen shrubs or small trees present in the chaparral biome of western North America, where they occur from southern British Columbia and Washington to California, Arizona and New Mexico in the United States, and throughout Mexico. They are characterized by smooth, orange or red bark and stiff, twisting branches. There are 105 species and subspecies of manzanita, 95 of which are found in the Mediterranean climate and colder mountainous regions of California, ranging from ground-hugging coastal and mountain species to small trees up to 20 feet (6m) tall. Manzanitas bloom in the winter to early spring and carry berries in spring and summer. The berries and flowers of most species are edible.Mansanita snails are found on the branches.

The word manzanita is the Spanish diminutive of manzana (apple). A literal translation would be little apple. The name manzanita is also sometimes used to refer to species in the related genus Arbutus, which is known by that name in the Canadian area of the tree’s range, but is more usually known as madro├▒o, or madrone in the United States.

Uses

Medicinal use

A tisane made from manzanita berries has been used for poison oak rash.

Culinary use

Traditional uses of the plant include collecting the berries, drying them, and grinding them up into a coarse meal. Fresh berries and branch tips were also soaked in water to make a cider. Native Americans used Manzanita leaves as toothbrushes. It was also used as substitute for sugar.

 

 

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Photo credits: Luke Jones, Dawn Endico

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

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