Information About Manzanita ‘Howard McMinn’
Common name: Manzanita ‘Howard McMinn‘
Scientific Name: Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’
Origin of Name: This plant was a selection introduced by the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation in 1955 from plants given to them by Howard McMinn, the native plant author and Mills College Botany Professor. McMinn cultivated Arctostaphylos densiflora seedlings on the Mills College in Oakland from seed he had collected in habitat and it is fitting that this outstanding selection was named for him and then received the Award of Merit from the California Horticultural Society in 1956. It was originally described by the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation as a low shrub, growing to 5 feet tall, but in the half century since its introduction, it has become apparent that this plant can reach nearly twice this height. The name Arctostaphylos was given to the genus by the French (of Scottish descent) naturalist Michel Adanson (1707-1778), who first named the circumboreal Arctostaphylos uva-ursi for plants found in Europe. The name comes from the Greek words ‘arktos’ meaning “bear” and ‘staphyle’ meaning grapes in reference to bears eating the fruit and the common name Bearberry also references this fact.
Habitat: The manzanita cultivar ‘Howard Mcminn’ is a mounding, medium-sized, evergreen shrub that originates from California. Its spreading branches are covered with small, glossy, rich green leaves all season. In spring, it bears many drooping clusters of tiny, bright white tubular flowers, followed by small, bright red berries.
Habit: Winter blooming. Their flowers can range from almost pure white through rosy pink. Their nectar attracts insects for birds to eat; once pollinated, they form red fruit that another group of birds enjoy in the fall. Their stiff green leaves and peeling red bark can be enjoyed by humans year-round.
American Indian uses: The Cahuilla and other tribes used the seeds ground into a meal and used to make mush or cakes. The Kawaiisu and Diegueno ate the berries fresh, used them to make a beverage, or dried them for winter food. Cahuilla used the fiber for building material, branches used in house construction. The Diegueno used branches used to make a brooms. The wood was preferred for burning as the coals would last a long time. Wood also used for making tools such as awls, and pipes.
The plant was a wild food source for both the people and animals. This were this plant grew was considered a rich hunting opportunity. The leaves were dried and added to smoking mixtures. An infusion of leaves used for poison oak rash and taken internally to treat diarrhea.
Cultivation: Manzanitas generally prefer lots of sun and generally little water. Slow-growing, they can form sprawling shrubs or modest trees, depending on their parentage. Howard is a selection of Arctostaphylos densiflora, and will eventually hit 10 feet tall and at least as broad; its lower branches may root as they strike the ground. In the ground just over 2 years, ours is roughly 2′ tall x 3′ wide, with one low rogue branch that extends another foot or two away from the parent. Arctostaphylos densiflora is happy in heavy soil with watering every 2-3 weeks during summer. The selection ‘Howard McMinn’ is known to be long-lived and dependable. Learn more about growing this plant here. Arctostaphylos Howard McMinn is a nectar source for the Monarch Butterfly and a great addition to the butterfly garden.- Zigmond, Maurice L. 1981 Kawaiisu Ethnobotany. Salt Lake City. University of Utah Press (p. 11)
- Hinton, Leanne 1975 Notes on La Huerta Diegueno Ethnobotany. Journal of California Anthropology 2:214-222 (p. 219) - Bean, Lowell John and Katherine Siva Saubel 1972 Temalpakh (From the Earth); Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants. Banning, CA. Malki Museum Press (p. 40) Hinton, Leanne 1975 Notes on La Huerta Diegueno Ethnobotany. Journal of California Anthropology 2:214-222 (p. 219)