Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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S.G. Aiken, M.J. Dallwitz, L.L. Consaul, C.L. McJannet, R.L. Boles, G.W. Argus, J.M. Gillett, P.J. Scott, R. Elven, M.C. LeBlanc, L.J. Gillespie, A.K. Brysting, H. Solstad, and J.G. Harris

Arctous alpina (L.) Nied.

English: Alpine bear berry,

French: Busserole alpine,

Inuktitut: Kallat, Kallaqutit (Baffin Island); Kallahutik (Nunavik).

Ericaceae, Bilberry family.

Published in Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 11: 144. 1889.

Type: Sweden, selected by Wallace, in Cafferty and Jarvis, Taxon 51: 752. 2002. Lectotype: LAPP 161.

Synonymy. Arbutus alpina L., Sp. Pl. 395. 1753.

Arctostaphylos alpina (L.) Spreng., Syst. Veg. 2: 287. 1825.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 10–30 cm high; shrubs; low shrubs. Aerial stems ascending and prostrate (prostrate stems to 1 cm in diameter). Aerial stem trichomes appressed, or spreading. Leaves present; distributed along the stems; alternate; persistent and marcescent (becoming straw-coloured over winter, but most leaves greening up again the following spring). Stipules absent (prominent leaf bud scales present). Petioles present; 1–4 mm long; winged; glabrous (occasionally with sparse stiff hairs on the margins), or hairy. Leaf blade bases attenuate. Blades 4–15 mm long, 2.5–8 mm wide, spreading, ovate (sometimes) or obovate (usually), flat, veins pinnate and veins reticulate (seen on abaxial surface). Blade adaxial surface without sessile glands, glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous. Blade margins crenate, glabrous or with non-glandular hairs (sparse long trichomes), with teeth toward the apex; apices acute, or obtuse, or rounded.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems two or more per plant. Flowers solitary, or in inflorescences. Inflorescences fasciculate (if applicable; a loose cluster of 2–4 flowers); lateral. Pedicels present. Bract leaves 1–6 mm long. Flowers small. Sepals conventional; 5; fused (at the base); 0.8–1.2 mm wide; green (pale), or purplish red. Calyx rotate; unlobed; without sessile glands; glabrous. Petals conventional; fused; 5; red; 3.5–4.5 mm long (with approximately 0.5 mm folded back as lobes). Corolla urceolate (with hairs on the upper surface of the lobes); 5-lobed. Stamens 10. Anthers reddish, becoming yellow. Anthers opening with a terminal pore. Anthers 0.6–0.7 mm long (with two merely stubby horns, 0.1–0.2 mm long). Nectaries present. Ovary superior; carpels 5; syncarpous. Ovaries sub-globose; glabrous. Styles 1. Placentation axile. Fruit sessile (almost), or stalked (sub-sessile); stalk 0.1–0.6 mm long; with calyx persisting; fleshy; a berry (superficially in appearance), or a drupe (technically); spherical; black; 6–8 mm long; 6–8 mm wide; glabrous; surface appearing veinless; not distinctly flattened; indehiscent. Seeds 2–5.

Chromosome information. 2n = 26.

2n = 26. Sørensen and Westergaard, in Löve and Löve (1948, Greenland); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1960, 1962); Löve and Löve (1966b, northeastern USA; Löve (1982b, Arctic Canada); Zhukova (1966, northeastern Asia; 1980, southern Chukotka); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska).

Ploidy levels recorded 2x.

Indigenous knowledge. An Inuit name on Baffin and Coral Harbour is Kallat for the berries and Kallaqutit for a bear berry patch. The berries are eaten by animals, especially bears. The leaves make strong and tasty tea that has a stronger taste than tea made from the leaves of prickly saxifrage. The tea from the leaves does not taste like the mature berries (Ootoova et al. 2001).

An Inuit name in Nunavik (northern Quebec) is kallahutik. Leaves were used to make a medicinal tea to relieve general stomach ache and kidney ailments. Year-old leaves picked in the fall are best (Anon 1984).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: tundra, slopes, ridges; imperfectly drained moist areas, dry, moderately well-drained areas; rocks, gravel, sand; with low organic content; non-calcareous (usually). Damp areas in a series of raised beaches (CAN 295909); decomposed schist with numerous small erratics of granite and limestone, (CAN 89122). This specimen from Resolution Island is from a stunted plant with leaves less than 1 cm long.

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago limited. Arctic, Low Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Banks, Victoria, Southampton (Digges and Resolution islands, and Melville Peninsula).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar, or circumboreal. Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Yamal–Gydan, Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Anabar–Olenyok, Kharaulakh, Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. This taxon and A. rubra have been transferred to the genus Arctous, following Wells (2000).

The plants flower early in the spring before the leaves unfold (Porsild 1957). Flowers are therefore rare on herbarium specimens (Aiken observation). Carolyn Mallory has photographed flowering plants on Baffin Island (see images). The edible fruits are shiny and blue-black when ripe, but have a rather insipid flavour (Porsild 1957).

Illustrations. • Plant habit. Low-growing shrubby plant, with immature green berries, growing beside the road near Apex. Nunavut, Baffin Island, east of Iqaluit. 27 July, 1982. J.M. Gillett 19085. • Habitat: Baffin Island. Plants with leaves turning red on the hillside. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, hillside trail to Apex. 17 August, 2006. Aiken, No Voucher. • Close-up of flower bud. Bud opening surrounded by leaves formed in the previous season. Deep reddish sepals and white fringed petals. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 2003. No voucher. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. • Close-up of flowers. Flowers with fused campanulate petals the tips of which are spreading at right angles to the corolla tube and fringed with white hairs. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 2003. No voucher. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. • Close-up of fruit that has over wintered. Black shiny fruit that have overwintered among leaves formed in the previous season. The fruit appears berry-like but is technically a drupe. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 2003. No voucher. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. • Close-up of a group of fruits. Lower right, a fruit turned to show the pink remains of the flower with five sepals. Left, the opposite end of the fruit with a small spot where the style was attached, thus the flower had a superior ovary. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. Fall 2002. No voucher. • Leaves regaining green colour. Many of the previous season's leaves that turned reddish and looked almost dead during the winter, become green and resuming functioning in the spring. 2003. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. No voucher. • Close-up of green leaves and immature berries. Immature bright green fruit, turning black when fully ripe. Leaves are deeply wrinkled with a build-up of old leaves remaining. Plants growing beside a road. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Apex, east of Iqaluit. 27 July, 1982. J.M. Gillett 19085. • Close-up of black fruit. Bright red autumn leaves and black fruit, 6–8 mm in diameter, that distinguishes this species from Arctous rubra. Plants growing on hillside behind town. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 27 August, 1997. Aiken 97–048. CAN. • Arctic Island Distribution.


This publication is available on the internet (posted May 2011) and on CD-ROM (published in 2007). These versions are identical in content, except that the errata page for CD-ROM is accessible on the main index page of the web version.

Recommended citation for the web-based version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. http://nature.ca/aaflora/data, accessed on DATE.

Recommended citation for the CD-ROM version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [CD-ROM] NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.

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