Crowberry

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Emptrum nigrum Linnaeus 

Crowberry grows as a dense matted shrub in rocky or shady places, 
frequently in company with Rocky Mountain cassiope. It is easy to 
confuse it with the latter plant if the two are not examined closely. 
The flowers are inconspicuous but the black berries are distinctive. 
The berries are much eaten by Arctic birds, although rather insipid to 
the human taste. This primitive plant is believed by some botanists 
to represent a survival, from some past geologic period, of a group 
ancestral to the present-day Heath Family. The Crowberry Family, as 
it is called, has few living members and most of these occupy isolated 
areas, widely scattered over the earth, evidently relics of a former 
much greater abundance. 

This species is the most widespread member of the family, ranging 
from northern New York, Maine, and Greenland westward to Michi- 
gan and California, and northward to Alaska. It occurs also in Asia 
and Europe. 

We gathered these specimens at Marble Canyon not far from the 
summit of Vermilion Pass, sixteen miles from Castle Station, Alberta, 
at an altitude of 5,000 feet.
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