Crowberry Empetrum nigrum

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Edible
‍🌱 Easy-care


Empetrum nigrum, commonly known as crowberry, is a low-growing evergreen shrub with a mat-forming habit, typically found in cooler climates and arctic tundras. The crowberry has small, needle-like, dark green leaves that are arranged alternately on its branches, giving it a dense, heath-like appearance. The leaves often have a slight roll to the edges, which adds to the plant's hardy look. Throughout the growing season, the foliage maintains its vibrant color, contributing to the plant’s visual appeal all year round. The branches of the crowberry are woody and can spread to create a ground cover that is both intricate and resilient. During its flowering period, the crowberry produces small, bell-shaped flowers that are usually purplish-pink in color. The flowers are unassuming and may not be readily noticeable because of their size and the density of the foliage. Once pollinated, these flowers give way to small, shiny berries that are black or purple-black when ripe. The berries are a notable feature of the plant, being both edible and a vital source of nutrition for various wildlife species. They are fleshy, with a juicy interior and can remain on the plant throughout winter, providing a stark contrast against snowy landscapes or the dark green of the leaves. Overall, the crowberry presents itself as a hardy, evergreen presence, offering year-round interest with its persistent foliage, subtle flowers, and distinctive berries that endure even in harsh conditions. It is most commonly recognized for its visual texture and the seasonal forage it provides rather than its size.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Black Crowberry, Crowberry, Crakeberry, Blackberry, Curlewberry, Rockberry.

    • Common names

      Empetrum atropurpureum, Empetrum eamesii, Empetrum hermaphroditum, Corema nigrum, Empetrum rubrum, Empetrum nigrum var. japonicum, Empetrum nigrum var. purpureum.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) is generally not considered toxic to humans. In fact, the berries of this plant are edible and have been used historically by indigenous peoples as a food source. However, it is always important to properly identify wild plants before consuming them, as some may have look-alikes that are toxic. If any part of a plant is consumed in error and symptoms of poisoning occur, it is advisable to seek medical attention. Typical symptoms of plant poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dizziness.

    • To pets

      Crowberry is not commonly known to be toxic to pets. It is considered a safe plant when pets come into contact with it or consume it in small quantities. As with humans, the berries are not toxic and can be consumed safely. However, pet owners should always monitor their pets for any signs of adverse reactions when they ingest any plant matter, as individual reactions can vary. Symptoms of plant poisoning in pets may resemble those in humans, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or signs of abdominal discomfort. If a pet displays signs of poisoning after ingesting any part of a plant, it is important to consult with a veterinarian.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves

      Dark green

    • Flower color


    • Height

      1 foot (0.3 meters)

    • Spread

      2 feet (0.6 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Wildlife Habitat: Empetrum nigrum, commonly known as crowberry, provides shelter and nesting sites for various bird species and small mammals.
    • Soil Erosion Control: Crowberry plants have a widespread root system that helps stabilize the soil, reducing erosion in the environments they inhabit.
    • Food Source: The berries are edible and can be a food source for wildlife, and in some cultures, are gathered for human consumption as well.
    • Cultural Significance: The plant holds traditional value in some indigenous cultures, where it has been used for food and as part of cultural practices.
    • Habitat Diversity: Crowberry contributes to plant community diversity in ecosystems like tundra, moorlands, and boreal forests.
    • Revegetation of Disturbed Sites: Being hardy and adaptable, Empetrum nigrum can be used in revegetation projects in harsh climates.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Antioxidant properties due to the presence of phenolic compounds, which may help to scavenge free radicals in the body.
    • Historically, it has been used by indigenous peoples for vitamin C content to prevent and treat scurvy.
    • Traditionally used as a dietary supplement to provide essential minerals and nutrients.
    • There have been some indications of its use for digestive disorders in folk medicine.
    • Empetrum nigrum may possess anti-inflammatory effects, although scientific evidence is limited.
    • It has been traditionally used to treat kidney disorders by some Native American tribes.
    • Some cultures have used it as a diuretic, although clinical evidence is lacking.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Empetrum nigrum, commonly known as crowberry, is traditionally used as a natural dye source. The fruits can be used to produce a range of colors on wool, from gold to blue-gray, depending on the mordant.
    • In landscape design, crowberry is appreciated for its evergreen foliage and ability to form dense ground covers, providing year-round interest and habitat for wildlife.
    • Crowberry plants are also used as a food source for game birds like grouse, making them valuable in regions where hunting is a cultural practice.
    • Some cultures have used the strong, flexible branches of crowberry plants in basket weaving, taking advantage of their natural durability.
    • In indigenous crafts, the berries of crowberry may be integrated into beading and jewelry for their color and symbolic significance.
    • The acidic and peaty soils where crowberry thrives are valuable indicators for botanists and ecologists monitoring ecosystem health and biodiversity.
    • Crowberry can be used as a companion plant in gardens and agriculture, potentially providing benefits such as pest control through habitat provision for beneficial insects.
    • Northern communities have been known to use the twigs of crowberry plants as a natural toothbrush or to clean cooking utensils.
    • Wildlife photographers and birdwatchers often value areas rich in crowberry plants for the opportunities they provide to observe and photograph a wide variety of birds that feed on the berries.
    • The leaves of Empetrum nigrum are sometimes used to produce a pale yellow-green dye, which can be used in craft projects for coloring textiles.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    Crowberry is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    Crowberry is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Survival and Resilience: Empetrum nigrum, commonly known as crowberry, is a plant that thrives in harsh, cold climates, symbolising the ability to survive and persevere through tough conditions.
    • Simplicity and Humility: As a low-growing, modest plant, crowberry represents a down-to-earth nature and simple elegance, eschewing the need for flashy flowers to make an impact.
    • Nourishment and Provision: The berries of crowberry have been used as food in some cultures, symbolizing nature's provision and the nourishment of the earth.
    • Protection and Safety: The evergreen nature of crowberry indicates a lasting presence and offers the idea of protection throughout the seasons, symbolizing safety and continuity.

When soil is dry
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring-Early Summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    The common name for Empetrum nigrum is crowberry, and when watering this plant, ensure the soil is consistently moist but well-drained. Crowberry plants typically prefer cool and moist environments, so watering them every week with 1 to 2 gallons depending on weather conditions is advisable; more frequent watering may be necessary during dry spells. Always check the top inch of the soil for dryness before watering to avoid overwatering. During winter, reduce the amount of water since the plant's water requirements decrease.

  • sunLight

    Crowberry prefers full to partial sunlight conditions. The best spot for planting crowberry would be an open area where it receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily, though it can also tolerate light shade. They can be successful under a bright, indirect light if grown indoors, which makes them quite adaptable to different lighting environments.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Crowberry plants are cold-hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, making them suitable for northern climates. The ideal temperature for crowberry is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can tolerate a range up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit without adverse effects. These plants are not well-suited to prolonged heat, especially when temperatures exceed the tolerance limit.

  • scissorsPruning

    Prune crowberry to shape the plant, control its size, and remove any dead or diseased branches. The best time for pruning crowberry is in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Pruning is not frequently required, but it can be done annually or as needed to maintain the desired form or to rejuvenate older plants.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) thrives in acidic soils with a pH ranging from 4.5 to 6.0. A well-draining soil mix composed of peat moss, perlite, and pine bark is ideal, mimicking its natural boggy, tundra habitat.

  • plantRepotting

    Crowberries do not require frequent repotting and can be repotted every 2 to 3 years. Ensure that the soil remains acidic and well-draining after each repot.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Crowberry plants prefer moderate to high humidity levels. Although they are adaptable, maintaining a humidity level of 50% or higher is beneficial for healthy growth.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place Crowberry in bright light and keep soil lightly moist.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in partial shade, moist acidic soil, protect from hot sun.

    • Hardiness zone

      2-6 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), a perennial evergreen shrub, begins its life as a seed, which requires exposure to cold temperatures in a process called stratification to germinate. Germination leads to a seedling stage, where it develops its first roots and shoots as it becomes established in acidic, often sandy or rocky soil. As the plant matures, it develops woody stems and needle-like leaves, forming a low, mat-forming shrub that can spread vegetatively through rhizomes. Crowberry reaches reproductive maturity in several years and produces small purple flowers, which are usually dioecious, meaning separate male and female plants. After pollination, typically by wind or insects, female plants produce fleshy, black berries that are dispersed by birds or mammals, contributing to the plant's propagation. The shrub has a long lifespan, surviving in harsh subarctic and boreal climates, and continues this cycle, contributing to the ecosystem as a groundcover and food source.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-Early Summer

    • Propogation: The most popular method for propagating crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) is by seed. Ideally, the seeds should be sown in the fall to allow for a natural stratification period over the winter. This cold period helps break the seed dormancy, leading to better germination rates in the spring. If planting in the spring, the seeds will need artificial stratification, which involves mixing the seeds with moist sand and refrigerating them at 33-39 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5-4 degrees Celsius) for about 4-6 weeks. Once stratified, the seeds can be sown in a well-draining soil mix, lightly covered with soil, and kept moderately moist until germination occurs. Seedlings are then grown in a protected area until they are strong enough to be transplanted to their final growing location.