(Plant Identification for everyone)

Shatterberry (Arctostaphylos sensitiva)

Shatterberry is a dark-green, hedge-like shrub.  Unlike other manzanitas, once you know what you’re looking for, you can spot it 100 feet away.  Closer up, the shiny dark green leaves are smooth to the touch – especially the bottoms.  The bottom of the leaf is a distinctly lighter color than the top.


Flowers are the typical manzanita urn shape, but are made up of only four petals – most Manzanitas have five. You can see this if you look carefully at the bottom of the flower, where only 4 lips come out the end of the urn.


Hairs on Shatterberry are distinctive, once you learn them.  They’re quite long, and more spaced than most other manzanitas.


In Marin County, this is the only Manzanita to have two-colored leaves.  It is found on rocky sandstone soils in the Mt. Tam area, as far north as upper Fairfax.  Leaves are smaller than Eastwood or Hoary.  [California Distribution Map]














Green leaves all year long

White/pink flowers










Field ID Tips

·  Blooms Jan – April.

·  Bottom of leaf is paler than top, and is very smooth to the touch.

·  Leaves cover a large portion of the surface of the plant, sometimes giving a hedge-like appearance.

·  Stems have quite long hairs, noticeably separate from each other.

·  Flower has 4 petals which is unusual.

·  The stem behind each flower is typically red with tiny red bumps


Arctostaphylos sensitiva_Shatterberry_Double Bow Knot_2014-03-10__BHS-18--2014-03-13 Railroad Grade

Dark green leaves with noticeable vein structure is quite different from other Marin manzanitas.


Arctostaphylos sensitiva_Shatterberry_Mountain Home_2014-03-10__BHS-15--2014-03-13 Railroad Grade

Notice 4 lips at the end of the flower, instead of 5.


Arctostaphylos sensitive_Shatterberry Manzanita 1__JB--__JB

Here are flower structures before blooming.  Notice red bumps.





Manzanitas of Marin


Arctostaphylos sensitive_Shatterberry Manzanita 5__JB--__JB

Notice 1) widely spaced, very long stem hairs; 2) Red bumps at the base of flower structures; 3) Dark green leaf tops and paler color underneath.  Under surface is quite smooth.


Arctostaphylos sensitive_Shatterberry Manzanita 4__JB--__JB

Shatterberry’s dark green leaves are distinctive.



© Creative Commons BY NC 3.0.  Contributors (identified by initials) are acknowledged at http://PlantID.Net/Contributors.htm

Last Updated 10/19/2014 by BHS.


Note to botanists – this page uses common vocabulary, sacrificing more precise scientific terms in the interest of general communication.  We hope the loss of precision in wording is, to some extent, made up for by photographs showing key identification points.