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What is Arctostaphylos?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Arctostaphylos is a plant genus that is part of the Ericaceae family. The roughly 60 species of shrubs and small trees are generally found in western North America. This genus includes evergreen and deciduous species that feature oval leaves and bell-shaped flowers. The genus name is derived from the Greek words arkto and staphyle, which translate to "bear" and "grape" respectively. It is commonly known as bearberry or manzanita.

Most of the species within the Arctostaphylos genus are native to southern British Columbia in Canada, down through the western coast of the United States, and into northern Mexico. A few species have adapted to arctic climates and are distributed around the globe in northern parts of North America, Asia, and Europe. The common bearberry is one species that has adapted to the arctic climate.

Gardeners have used these plants for a variety of landscaping and gardening needs. The larger varieties have colored barks, ranging from orange to red, which make them ideal in open areas. The low growing varieties are typically found in rock gardens or greenhouses, and they are also used as ground cover between larger shrubs. Their white to pale pink flowers sprout in small clusters and attract butterflies, which creates a picturesque scene. In addition, most of the species in this genus produce berries, which add to the ornamental value of the plant.

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Shrubs within the Arctostaphylos genus that can be planted in a garden generally require well-draining, but moist soil. It should be fertile soil, consisting of a moderate amount of organic material. The area can be exposed to direct sunlight or be covered partially by shade.

When growing the same shrub in a greenhouse, acidic potting soil is generally used as a medium. The greenhouse should be cool and have plenty of lighting. During the growing season, regular watering is required and a monthly fertilizer is recommended. Watering should be reduced during the winter.

Most plants in the Arctostaphylos genus are susceptible to diseases such as leaf gall. It is caused by a fungus, usually a species of Exobasidium. Signs of an infection include white or pink spores on damaged leaves. The leaves will be distorted, thick, and brittle. There are preventive steps that reduce the risk of fungal infection. Overhead watering should be avoided and pruning should take place only when the branches are dry. Removing dead leaves and other plant debris around the shrubs will also reduce the risk of infection.

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