Vaccinium cespitosum
Dwarf bilberry

Photo by Susan R. Crispin 

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Key Characteristics

Very low prostrate shrub of open habitat in the Upper Peninsula; forming circular clones in dense mats up to several meters in diameter; small, roundish deciduous leaves have bristle-tipped teeth; single, pinkish, bell-shaped flowers are borne in the leaf axils.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: T - Threatened (legally protected)
  • State Rank: S1S2 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from critically imperiled to imperiled
  • Global Rank: G5 - Secure


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Map Distribution Alcona Alger Allegan Alpena Antrim Arenac Baraga Barry Bay Benzie Berrien Branch Calhoun Cass Charlevoix Cheboygan Chippewa Clare Clinton Crawford Delta Dickinson Eaton Emmet Genesee Gladwin Gogebic Grand_Traverse Gratiot Hillsdale Houghton Huron Ingham Ionia Iosco Iron Isabella Jackson Kalamazoo Kalkaska Kent Keweenaw Lake Lapeer Leelanau Lenawee Livingston Luce Mackinac Macomb Manistee Marquette Mason Mecosta Menominee Midland Missaukee Monroe Montcalm Montmorency Muskegon Oakland Oceana Ogemaw Ontonagon Osceola Oscoda Otsego Ottawa Presque_Isle Roscommon Saginaw St__Clair St__Joseph Sanilac Schoolcraft Shiawassee Tuscola Van_Buren Washtenaw Wayne Wexford

Updated 9/4/2014. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Dwarf bilberry occurs in open or semi-open habitats in the Upper Peninsula on dry, sandy soil. It is also found in seasonally wet, meadow-like areas intermixed with dry northern forest and dry sand prairie.

Natural Community Types

Associated Plants

Big bluestem, little bluestem, Pennsylvania sedge, tower mustard, whorled milkweed, Ohio horse mint, old field balsam, hairy hawkweed, dwarf dandelion, rough blazing star, cylindrical blazing star, blue toadflax, wild lupine, horsemint, racemed milkwort, panic grass, Venus looking glass, grasses, and sedges.


This species is the larval host plant for the state threatened northern blue butterfly. Disturbances to the sod should be avoided. Fire may play an important role in maintaining habitat, but never burn an entire site all at once. Active management to limit canopy closure may be needed if fire is not an option. The habitat of this species has been severely degraded and diminished.

General Survey Guidelines

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgment of the investigator.

Survey Methods

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Sep 2, 2014]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract


Survey References

Technical References