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Crowberry

This is a member of the Heather family and is a perennial, evergreen, mat-forming shrub in the style of Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), but with black berries instead of red. It grows on peaty or rocky moorland, and also on mountain plateaux and clifftop heaths all over Scotland. 

The stems are woody and red and ascend rather limply, branching towards the ends to support the flowers and berries. The leaves of the Crowberry are different from the Bearberry, being short stubby needles which grow in a spiral pattern all the way up the stem. These are bright green, glossy and fleshy with smooth edges and the undersides of the leaves are marked with a pale central stripe or ridge. Leaves are 4 – 7mm long.

The tiny flowers are often overlooked. They grow singly in the angles of the stem-tip leaves and are 1 or 2mm across, with 3 purplish petal lobes, 3 purple stamens and a pistil. The stamens with their dark purple anthers are more prominent than the flower. 

The fruit is a shiny black berry, nearly twice as large as that of the Bearberry, initially green, then turning pink, purple and finally black. The berries survive through the snows and are an important winter food source for capercaillies, ptarmigans, robins, small mammals.

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