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Arctostaphylos manzanita

Arctostaphylos manzanita Parry

Whiteleaf Manzanita, Big Manzanita, Manzanita

Ericaceae (Heath Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

This manzanita is an erect, usually 6-12 ft., evergreen shrub, with long, crooked branches and smooth, dark, red-brown bark. Leaves are bright green and the inflorescences of white or pink, bell-shaped flowers are drooping. Berries are white at first, later becoming deep red. Large evergreen shrub, sometimes a small tree commonly branching near base, with stout, crooked, twisted trunks and branches and dense, rounded crown as broad as high.

Whether manzanitas should be considered trees is debatable; a few of the approximately 40 native shrubby species mainly in California (including this one) reach tree size. However, they generally branch or fork near the ground, thus lacking the single trunk of a tree. Manzanita is a Spanish word meaning "little apple." The mealy berries are consumed in great quantities by wildlife of many kinds and were eaten by Indians, who also made them into manzanita cider. The dense evergreen foliage provides shelter for birds and small mammals; deer and goats browse the leaves and twigs. The handsome reddish-brown branches become twisted into odd shapes which are trimmed into collectors' items called "mountain driftwood."


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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Up to about 25 feet tall, often shorter.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar , Apr


Native Distribution: CA Coast Ranges & Sierra Nevada foothills
Native Habitat: Dry slopes & foothill canyons

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Dry soils.
Conditions Comments: A variable species, perhaps due to hybridization. Horticultural selections of this species are often available.


Use Food: Manzanita berries were used to make a refreshing, cider-like drink by indigenous peoples.
Use Other: Wood used today to make "driftwood" decorative pieces and by indigenous peoples to make fire drills.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds
Nectar Source: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Propagation by seed is can be difficult.
Seed Collection: The outer fleshy part of the furit may be removed by macering the fruits with water and separating the nutlets by flotation or air-screening.
Seed Treatment: Seeds of most Arctostaphylos species have hard seed coats and dormant embryos. Scarification (several hours in H2SO4) followed by stratification may improve germination.
Commercially Avail: yes

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1987 VOL. 4, NO.2 - Wildflowers Provide Activity in Summer, Beautiful Colorado Beckons, What is Rese...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Arctostaphylos manzanita in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Arctostaphylos manzanita in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Arctostaphylos manzanita


Record Modified: 2022-10-17
Research By: TWC Staff

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