BlackBerry Empetrum nigrum
BlackBerry Empetrum nigrum

Black crowberry Empetrum nigrum

Empetrum nigrum, Alaskan name blackberry

Empetrum nigrum, crowberry, black crowberry, or, in western Alaska, blackberry, is a flowering plant species in the heather family Ericaceae with a near circumboreal distribution in the northern hemisphere. It is also native in the Falkland Islands. It is usually dioecious, but there is a bisexual tetraploid subspecies, Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum, that occurs in more northerly locations and at higher altitude.

Evolutionary biologists have explained the striking geographic distribution of crowberries as a result of long-distance migratory birds dispersing seeds from one pole to the other.

The metabolism and photosynthetic parameters of Empetrum can be altered in winter-warming experiments.

The leaves are 3–6 mm (0.12–0.24 in) long, arranged alternately along the stem. The fruits are drupes, 4–6 mm (0.16–0.24 in) wide, usually black or purplish-black but occasionally red.
The plant forms large clumps, up to 10 inches (25 cm) tall and spreads by above ground, creeping stems. The branching stems spread along the ground and send out roots forming large, shallowly rooted mats. Wild populations of crowberry are a mixture of plants originating from seed and from creeping stems that root along the ground (natural layering).
Some crowberries (ssp. nigrum) have two separate plant types: male plants and female plants. This subspecies grows in coastal Alaska from the southeastern panhandle to the Aleutians and does not produce nearly as much fruit as the subspecies hermaphroditum which has mostly one plant type where all flowers include both male and female flower parts.
Hermaphroditum is the most common subspecies and grows throughout northern, interior, southwestern and western Alaska, and produces the most reliable quantity of fruit from year to year. Flowers are mostly solitary in the axils of the needle-like leaves. They are pink or purplish and inconspicuous, often buried near the ground beneath spiking branches. Flowering occurs on the previous season’s growth, so fruit is usually found singly or in small clusters along the sides of the branches rather than at the tips. Pollination by wind may be critical for fruit production, but others do not rule out insects, particularly flies. Self pollination is considered impossible or so slight that fruit yield is significantly reduced if cross pollination does not occur. Plants may be propagated by seeds or stem cuttings. Seeds do not germinate right away, but need a cold stratification period before germinating. In natural plantings direct seeding for plant establishment does not work. Seedlings are uncommon in wild stands, and plant establishment can take decades. Leafy stem cuttings taken in mid-summer root easily in peat. Plant growth following rooting is rapid. Plants do not regenerate from root cuttings or prostrate leafless stems.

Cultivation and uses
E. nigrum can be grown in acidic soils in shady, moist areas. It can be grown for the edible fruit, as a ground cover, or as an ornamental plant in rock gardens, notably the yellow-foliaged cultivar 'Lucia'. The fruit is high in anthocyanin pigment, and can be used to make a natural food dye.

In subarctic areas, E. nigrum has been a vital addition to the diet of the Inuit and the Sami. The Dena'ina (Tanaina) harvest it for food, sometimes storing in quantity for winter, and like it mixed with lard or oil. The fruits are usually collected in fall, but if not picked they may persist on the plant and can be picked in the spring.

Grows in a variety of habitat types from dry, rocky alpine soils to open conifer forests. It is common in shrub habitats, open muskegs and shorelines and grows both on acidic soil and those with a neutral pH.
Crowberry cannot tolerate wet and waterlogged soils.

The fruit is 0.15 to 0.40 inch (4–10 mm) in diameter and consists of a black drupe with six to nine white seeds or nutlets. Raw berries are small, mealy and often considered tasteless when eaten alone. They are often mixed with other berries or cooked into jelly or pies. In Lapland, crowberries are used as extender for blueberry products and as a coloring agent. Crowberry is very high in vitamin C and other antioxidants and has significant medicinal properties.

The good: This food is very low in Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Riboflavin, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Pantothenic Acid, Copper and Manganese.

Medicinal Uses
Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Astringent; Diuretic; Kidney; Ophthalmic.

The leafy branches have been used, especially for children with a fever, as a diuretic. It has also been used to treat kidney problems. A decoction or infusion of the stems, or the cooked berries, have been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. A decoction of the leaves and stems, mixed with Hudson Bay tea and young spruce tree tips, has been used in the treatment of colds. A decoction of the roots has been used as an eyewash to remove a growth.
Other Uses

A purple dye is obtained from the fruit. Can be used for groundcover in exposed locations. Plants should be spaced about 25cm apart each way.

Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Erosion control, Foundation, Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden. A calcifuge plant, it is easily grown in a lime-free soil. Prefers a moist sandy peaty soil and some shade. The two names var. 'Rubrum' and var. 'Purpureum' are of doubtful application to this species and may refer to E. eamesii. Plants are usually dioecious though hermaphrodite forms are known. Male and female plants will normally need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Special Features: Attractive foliage, North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Nutrition Information
Amounts per 1 ounce (28g)
Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving %DV
Calories 14.6 (61.1 kJ) 1%
From Carbohydrate 10.9 (45.6 kJ)
From Fat 2.7 (11.3 kJ)
From Protein 0.9 (3.8 kJ)
From Alcohol 0.0 (0.0 kJ)

Amounts Per Selected Serving %DV
Calcium 1.4 mg 0%
Iron 0.1 mg 0%
Magnesium 1.1 mg 0%
Phosphorus 3.1 mg 0%
Potassium 21.0 mg 1%
Sodium 1.7 mg 0%
Zinc 0.0 mg 0%
Copper 0.1 mg 3%
Manganese 0.1 mg 4%

Amounts Per Selected Serving %DV
Vitamin A 12.9 IU 0%
Retinol 0.0 mcg
Retinol Activity Equivalent 1.4 mcg
Alpha Carotene 0.0 mcg
Beta Carotene 7.6 mcg
Beta Cryptoxanthin 0.0 mcg
Lycopene 0.0 mcg
Vitamin C 1.3 mg 2%
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.3 mg 1%
Vitamin K 1.7 mcg 2%
Thiamin 0.0 mg 1%
Riboflavin 0.0 mg 2%
Niacin 0.1 mg 0%
Vitamin B6 0.0 mg 1%
Folate 3.1 mcg 1%
Food Folate 3.1 mcg
Folic Acid 0.0 mcg
Dietary Folate Equivalents 3.1 mcg
Vitamin B12 0.0 mcg 0%
Pantothenic Acid 0.4 mg 4%

Amounts Per Selected Serving %DV
Alcohol 0.0 g
Water 24.7 g
Ash 0.1 g
Caffeine 0.0 mg
Theobromine 0.0 mg

Footnotes for Blackberries, wild, raw (Alaska Native) [Crowberries]
Source: Nutrient data for this listing was complile by
Originall source to compile are USDA SR-21 and Wikipedia