Arctostaphylos rudis 'Vandenberg'

Shagbark/Sand Mesa Manzanita

Several years ago at Vandenburg Air Force Base, Nevin Smith saved this plant from a mile-wide swath that was being stripped of all vegetation. It forms a medium-large, compact shrub 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It has purplish stems and 1-inch leaves brightly tinted with red to bronze on the new growth. Abundant clusters of small pink blossoms in spring are followed by a profusion of glossy berries.

Wildlife value: The word manzanita means “little apple”. Birds love to eat the berries. Hummingbirds sip nectar from the blossoms.

Other uses: Manzanita is prized for its many uses. The berries can be eaten raw or cooked and are known to quench thirst (if you happen to find yourself in the wild without a canteen). The berries, leaves, and smooth mahogany-colored wood have all been used as food, medicine, and for tools.