What Is the Bearberry Plant of the Tundra?

The bearberry is a dwarf evergreen shrub adapted to Subarctic and Arctic climates. It can grow up to several meters in length. It creeps close to the ground as an adaptation to the extreme ripping winds of the tundra biome.

The bearberry is a circumboreal species widely distributed in North America and parts of Eurasia. The bearberry plant can grow in nutritionally poor soil with limited silt and clay. Salt- and drought-tolerant, bearberries prefer well-drained sandy soil, and are often found near dry and open habitats, such as coastal areas, sandy and rocky barrens and slopes, dunes and mountains and prairies. In the tundra biome of the Arctic, bearberries are often found clinging behind rocks to stay out of the wind. This low-growing shrub grows into a compact mat in the tundra's open environment, serving as insulation for smaller plants in the tundra biome.

Aside from its red cherries and evergreen leaves, the bearberry plant has silky hair that aids in keeping it warm. Its leathery leaves keep the heat and moisture inside the plant as an adaptation to the cold tundra climate. Bearberries are extremely winter-hardy plants, but they require plenty of sunlight, as they do not tolerate shade well. If cultivated in favorable conditions, it grows fast and makes a good ground cover near coastal areas and sandy banks. It also prevents erosion near watersheds.