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Downy Manzanita (Arctostaphylos tomentosa)

A. cordifolia. A. vestita. Arbutus tomentosa.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Downy Manzanita
Arctostaphylos tomentosa

A yellowish-brown dye is obtained from the leaves, it does not require a mordant[168].

The wood is used for making fine furniture[61].

  • Medicinal Use

    The dried leaves are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints[4]. These leaves should be harvested in early autumn, only green leaves being selected, and then dried in gentle heat[4]. A tea made from the dried leaves is strongly astringent, diuretic and an antiseptic for the urinary tract[4, 222]. It is much used for kidney and bladder complaints and inflammation of the urinary tract, but it should be used with caution[4, 21, 46, 172] because it contains arbutin which hydrolyzes into the toxic urinary antiseptic hydroquinone[222].

    An infusion of the bark powder has been used in the treatment of lung haemorrhages[257].

    A cider made from the fruit has been used as an appetizer to create appetite and treat stomach complaints[257]. Although the report does not specify, the cider was probably unfermented[K].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw or cooked[2, 92, 105, 161]. Sweet, dry and mealy[61]. An important food for native tribes, it can also be dried for winter use[177]. When dried and baked into a bread it is relished by the native Indian tribes[2]. If harvested when not quite ripe, it can be used like a tart apple[2]. A cooling sub-acid drink can be made from the fruit[2, 257]. The fruit is about 8 – 10mm in diameter[200].

    Seed – ground into a powder and used to make mush, biscuits etc[92, 257]. The seed is very small and would be difficult to separate from the fruit. It would be easier to dry the whole fruit, grind this into a powder and use it in soups etc[K].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak dried seed in boiling water for 10 – 20 seconds or burn some straw on top of them and then stratify at 2 – 5¡c for 2 months[11, 200]. The seed usually germinates in 2 – 3 months at 15¡c[134]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame or greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of side shoots of the current season’s growth, 5 – 8cm with a heel, August to December in a frame. The cuttings are very slow and can take a year to root[1, 78]. Division in early spring. Take care because the plant resents root disturbance. Pot the divisions up and keep them in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are growing away actively. Layering in spring[200].
Requires a deep moist well-drained light or medium lime-free loam[11, 166, 200] in sun or semi-shade but plants produce less fruit when they are grown in the shade[200]. Tolerates maritime exposure. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10¡c[200]. Very closely related to A. columbiana but with a more southerly range[11]. Plants can regenerate after a forest fire from a mallee-like base[166]. Plants resent root disturbance and should be placed in their final positions as soon as possible[11, 134].
South-western N. America – California.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.