Herbs & Plants

Empetrum rubrum

Botanical Name: Empetrum rubrum
Family: Ericaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales
Genus: Empetrum
Species: E. rubrum

Common Names: Red crowberry or Diddle-dee (Chilean Spanish: Murtilla de Magallanes)

Habitat: Empetrum rubrum is native to South America – Chile and Tierra Del Fuego. It grows on bogs and swamps, in open Nothofagus forest and occasionally frequent in the understorey.

Empetrum rubrum is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a slow rate with somewhat trailing in habit. The narrow simple leaves are about 1 cm (0.4 inch) long and somewhat succulent. The flowers are very small and purplish pink. The fruits are true berries, about 1 cm long, and range from reddish to purple to black, depending on the species.

It is in leaf all year, in flower in May. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Bees, flies, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies). The plant is not self-fertile.


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.
A calcifuge plant, it is easily grown in a moist lime-free peaty soil. Tolerates exposed positions, including maritime exposure in Cornwall. This species is closely related to E. nigrum. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Through seeds – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The seed can be very slow to germinate, stored seed requires 5 months warm then 3 months cold stratification at 5°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 3cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Takes 3 weeks. Good percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year’s growth, 3cm with a heel, October in a frame. Requires shade. Good percentage

Edible Uses:Fruits are edible, eaten – raw or cooked. It is supposed to have tonic properties.

Medicinal Uses: Used as very good tonic.

Other Uses: Plants can be used for groundcover in exposed locations.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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