E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Empetrum nigrum L.
crowberry (black crowberry)
Ericaceae (Crowberry family)
(Previously in Empetraceae)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Allan Carson  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #17753)

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Distribution of Empetrum nigrum
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Species Information

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Evergreen shrub; stems somewhat decumbent, more or less woolly-hairy, freely branching, 15-30 cm long.
Alternate, evergreen, linear to almost needle-like, in whorls of 4, 3-8 mm long, glandular-hairy, margins rolled under, lower surface grooved.
Inflorescence of 2-3 inconspicuous flowers in the leaf axils, subtended by 3 scaly bracts smaller than the sepals; petals 0-3, purplish, 3 mm long; sepals 3, brownish.
Berry-like drupes, fleshy, purplish-black, globular, 4-5 mm long; seeds 2-9, white, stonelike.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Black
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Wet to moist bogs, meadows, open forests, alpine fellfields and cliffs in the lowland to alpine zones; frequent throughout BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to NY, MN and N CA; Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Empetrum nigrum

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 1193 2410
Slope Gradient (%) 0 14 172
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 343 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(11), bafa(112), BWBS(284), CMA(13), CWH(303), ESSF(564), ICH(22), IDF(1), IMA(27), MH(84), MS(269), SBPS(75), SBS(162), SWB(260)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-intolerant, submontane to alpine, circumpolar, evergreen shrub (transcontinental in North America). Grows on a wide range of sites in tundra, boreal, and cool mesothermal climates. Most often in nitrogen-poor soils in semi-terrestrial communities (peat bogs) where it inhabits topographic prominences. An oxylophytic species characteristic of Mor humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Empetrum atropurpureum Fernald & Wiegand
Empetrum nigrum var. atropurpureum (Fernald & Wiegand) B. Boivin
Empetrum nigrum var. purpureum (Raf.) A. DC.
Empetrum rubrum var. atropurpureum (Fernald & Wiegand) R. Good

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References