Empetrum nigrum

crowberry, curlew berry, crakeberry

Empetrum nigrum is a creeping evergreen shrub that spreads through long horizontal branches. Leaves are needle-like in whorls of four. The fruits are black and berry-like, with large white seeds.

Crowberry's leaves and grow habit closely resemble Pyllodoce empetriformis, or pink mountain heather. You can tell the two plants apart by their flowers; pink mountain heather has showy, bell-shaped pink flowers while crowberry has purplish crimson flowers in early spring.

Cultural Narrative: 

The berries of Empetrum nigrum were commonly eaten by many groups throughout the northern climes. They could be eaten fresh or dried. Some mixed the berries with bear grease and ate them immediately. The berries could also be boiled, then mashed and dried into cakes for storage. Today, crowberry is commonly used in jellies, pies, and alcoholic beverages.

Location Description: 

Crowberry grows across mid to alpine elevations. It prefers cold coniferous foests, rocky outcrops, but can occasionally be found in wetlands.