Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) is named from the Spanish word manzana, meaning "apple", and in this case "little apple", indicative of its seasonal berries. These berries are edible but should not be taken in excess. They have a slightly acidic flavor and can be crushed to make a sweet, unfermented cider, sometimes used to calm stomach pain or to stimulate the appetite. They are also dried and ground into meal or powder for use in flavoring soups, bread or tea. The leaves can be made into a poultice and applied to sores or for headache relief. The curled, red bark also has medicinal properties when soaked as a tea and used as a treatment for nausea or upset stomach. The fresh, young leaves have been chewed by hikers to quench their thirst. The leaves can also be used as a yellowish-brown die or a body wash. The wood is excellent as a long burning fuel and mesquite-like flavor for smoking or barbequing foods.
Even though Manzanita has been used in these ways, any ingesting of a wild plant should be done either with a doctor's permission or under the recommendation of a professional and knowledgeable practitioner. SticksNChips bears no liability for the above applications of this plant.
The Manzanita's distinctive curled or twisted limbs and orange to reddish-purple bark is favored for its beauty and strength. These evergreens are native to the chaparral regions of western North America (from Canada to California), the state of New Mexico and across the northern and central states of Mexico About 95 of the 106 species are found in California. They range in size from a few feet high to nearly 20 feet.
The blooming season is from February to April with white to pink blossoms. The flowers are hermaphrodite so Manzanitas are self-fertile. They prefer sandy and loamy soil, well drained, which ensures their survival in dry, arid regions. Even so, Manzanita can tolerate the moisture of coastal regions. They also prefer very acid soil and can grow equally well in either semi-shade or full sun.
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