Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago
English: Red bear berry,
French: Busserole rouge,
Inuktitut: Kublak (Southampton Island); Kallahutik (Nunavik).
Ericaceae, Bilberry family.
Published in Trees and Shrubs Japan Proper, ed. 1, 156. 1922.
Type: Described from China.
Synonymy. Arctous alpinus (L.) Niedenzu var. ruber Rehder and E.M. Wilson, Pl. Wils. 3: 556. 1913.
Arctostaphylos rubra (Rehder and E.M. Wilson) Fernald, Rhodora 16: 32. 1914.
Arctostaphylos alpina (L.) Spreng. subsp. rubra (Rehder and E.M. Wilson) Hultén, Acta Univ. Lund., n. f., avd. 2, 44, 1: 1245. 1948.
Arctous erythrocarpa Small, N. Amer. Fl. 29, 1: 102. 1914.
Vegetative morphology. Plants (15–)20–45 cm high; shrubs; low shrubs. Aerial stems ascending and prostrate. Leaves present; distributed along the stems; alternate; dying annually and non-persistent and marcescent (as dead leaves associated with the plant, but not nearly the build-up found in A. alpina). Stipules absent (prominent leaf bud scales present). Petioles present; 1–5 mm long; winged; glabrous. Leaf blade bases attenuate. Blades (10–)15–30(–55) mm long, 10–20(–30) mm wide (larger dimensions occur in samples from continental North America), spreading, ovate or oblanceolate or obovate, 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, with teeth toward the apex; apices obtuse, or rounded.
Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems two or more per plant. Flowers solitary, or in inflorescences. Inflorescences fasciculate; terminal. Pedicels present. Bract leaves 1–2.5 mm long. Flowers small. Sepals conventional; 5; fused (at the base); 1.3–1.8 mm wide; green (pale), or purplish red. Calyx rotate (in flower); unlobed; without sessile glands; glabrous. Petals conventional; fused; 5; yellow, or green (pale yellowish green); 3.5–4.5 mm long (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 0.6–0.8 mm long (with two horns approximately half the length of the anthers). Nectaries present. Ovary superior; carpels 5; syncarpous. Ovaries sub-globose; glabrous. Styles 1. Placentation axile. Ovules per ovary one seed per carpel Arctous, or numerous. Fruit sessile (almost), or stalked; with calyx persisting; fleshy; a berry (superficially), or a drupe (technically); spherical; red (scarlet); 6–12 mm long; 6–12 mm wide; glabrous; surface appearing veinless; not distinctly flattened; indehiscent. Seeds 2–5; 3–3.5 mm long (1.5–2 mm wide); surfaces smooth.
Chromosome information. 2n = 26.
2n = 26. Löve and Solbrig (1964a, Arctic Canada); Löve (1982b, Arctic Canada); Zhukova (1966 northeastern Asia); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada, 2n = about 26); Packer, in Löve (1968, northwestern Canada); Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska).
Ploidy levels recorded 2x.
Indigenous knowledge. Kublak is the name used on Southampton Island (Aatii Evaloakjuk, personal communication, 2001).
Andre and Fehr (2000) reported that Gwich'in elders knew that if you did not have water the berries of this plant will quench your thirst. They are also considered good when added to meatballs.
Porsild (1953) noted that although the berries are eaten greedily by bears and ptarmigan, the berries are unattractive to most people, but according to Fernald and Kinsey (1943, p. 310), "in the absence of more attractive berries this fruit is apparently wholesome and one soon acquires a taste for it".
Ecology and habitat. Calcareous till in Cassiope-Dryas heath (CAN 485166); moderately to imperfectly drained ice wedge polygon trough in Dryas heath tundra (CAN 489192); bare wet sand by river (CAN 128046); well-drained calcareous gravel and sand (CAN 489206).
North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Newfoundland. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago limited. Low Arctic. Arctic islands: Banks, Victoria, Southampton (and Boothia Peninsula).
Northern hemisphere distribution. Amphi-Beringian, or North American, or Pacific. AnabarOlenyok, Kharaulakh, YanaKolyma, West Chukotka, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador Hudson Bay.
General notes. This taxon and A. alpina are similar and best distinguished by the presence of hairs on the petioles and leaf margins in the later, and the larger leaves of A. rubra. The black fruits of A. alpina distinguish this species from A. rubra. The leaves of A. alpina persist for several years; those of A. rubra do not and when they fall they leave areas of leafless stem. Plants flower when leaves are developed (see image library). Fruits are very juicy but rather insipid.
Illustrations. • Habitat in fall. Dark zone of plants at the base of the hill are from the same area as those in the next photograph. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. August, 1999. Photograph by the Parks Canada patrol. • Close-up of plant habitat in spring. Foreground zone of green and reddish plants growing about half way up a pingo. Bluish green Salix (willow) plants scattered among the Bearberry. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 11 July, 1999. Aiken 99–050. CAN. • Flowering on almost leafless branches. Plants beginning to flower on branches with little evidence of the previous season's leaves. This is an excellent character for distinguishing the taxon from A. alpina. N.W.T., Inuvik, Dolomite Lake. 3 June, 2003. Raila Salokangas 1. CAN. • Close-up of flower. Close-up of flowers with short fused green sepals and fused campanulate (or bell-shaped) petals. Reddish bracts subtend the flowers. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 11 July, 1999. Aiken 99–050. CAN. • Plants turning bright red in fall 1981. Patch of Red BearBerry on a hillside. N.W.T., Banks Island, on slope of Sachs River delta across from Sachs Harbour. 28 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18907. • Same plants in 1999. These are believed to be the same patch of plants in the previous photograph. The patch is known to people in Sachs Harbour and is the only patch in the area. 1999. Photograph by R. Buck. • Close-up of red leaves. Leaves turning bright red in the fall with relatively few old leaves remaining at the base of the plant. Plants growing on a hillside. N.W.T., Banks Island, Sachs River delta across from Sachs Harbour. 28 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18907. • Close-up of fruit. The ripe fruit of Red BearBerry is a bright red. Note also the crenulate leaf margins. Aiken and Anne Brysting 01–481. • 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..