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Empetrum nigrum (Black crowberry)
Weyand, Phyllis

Empetrum nigrum

Empetrum nigrum L.

Black Crowberry

Empetraceae (Crowberry Family)


USDA Symbol: emni

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), GL (N), SPM (N)

A low, dense, mounded, heather-like shrub, to 6 in. in height, with short, erect, leafy branches. The foliage is dark green and linear, resembling tiny, fat fir needles. The leaves are arranged in whorls of four along the tough, prostrate stems. Small, rather inconspicuous, purplish-brown flowers occur in leaf axils and are followed by showy, purplish-black fruits.

Easier to grow than its heather look-alikes, the phyllodoces.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Stems prostrate, trailing, and densely branched, up to about 3 feet long.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Black, Purple

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Pink , Purple
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul


USA: AK , CA , MI , MN , NH , NY , OR , VT , WA
Canada: BC , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Circumpolar, s. in N. America through the Cascades to n. CA & at high altitudes in n. New England
Native Habitat: Peat bogs; moist, mossy places; exposed, rocky bluffs

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Various soils.
Conditions Comments: Easier to grow than its heather look-alikes, the phyllodoces.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Northern Blue butterfly (Lycaeides idas), Arctic Blue butterfly (Agriades glandon)

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Northern Blue
(Plebejus idas)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Arctic Blue
(Plebejus glandon)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Easily propagated from cuttings.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Evergreen shrubs for Michigan
June 17, 2008
I'm seeking a small-medium, ornamental, fairly compact, evergreen shrub to complement my front yard woodland wildflower garden. I want a shrub that will flank both sides of my front porch steps. I wa...
view the full question and answer

Advice on planting Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa) in Vancouver, BC
October 26, 2007
I live in the Vancouver, BC - Pacific Northwest area and the front of our yard faces south to southwest. If I were to plant a tree other than an evergreen, would the Korean Dogwood thrive in this are...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1990 VOL. 7, NO.2 - Preservation Blooms in Recreated Prairies, New Wildflower Center Prairie Welcome...

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-02-07
Research By: TWC Staff

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