Nagoonberry is a small herb in the rose family (Rosaceae) with trifoliate leaves and pink flowers that develop into red, flavorful berries. This species occurs in shrub thickets, floodplains and poplar forests in damp, lush sites across the park. Plants grow 5-15 cm tall from a slender rhizome. The leaves are divided into three segments (occasionally just lobed), alternately arranged, with toothed margins. Leaves are light green on both sides, more or less hairy on both sides, usually particularly hairy on the veins of the lower surface. Plants produce 1-3 flowers above the leaves. Flowers are five-petalled and deep to light pink, the petals round ovate, with narrow green sepals. The bisexual flowers have numerous stamens with pink filaments and cream stamens, initially curved in towards the styles. Sepals are hairy. Fruits are flavorful, raspberry-like, and red, (technically an aggregate drupelet), about 1 cm across. Nagoonberry can be distinguished from the other small Rubus species in the park, cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), by the leaf shape and flower color: cloudberry has five-parted leaves and white flowers, while nagoonberry has trifoliate leaves and pink flowers.
This species is perennial. It flowers in mid-summer and leaves turn dark red in fall.
Nagoonberry flowers are nectar producing and insect pollinated. A study on wild Finnish plants demonstrated that nagoonberry is self-incompatible, with very low seed set for self-pollinated plants (Tammisola and Ryynanen 1970). Insect visitors in Finland and Estonia included bumblebees, honeybees and flies (Ryynanen 1973, Vool et al. 2003). The fruit is a bright red aggregate of 15-30 juicy drupes, each with a seed inside. Plants do not flower every year, and fruit set is not especially high.
Berries are tasty and commonly picked and eaten, or collected for jams and jellies if they can be found in large enough quantities.
Nagoonberry is an incompletely circumpolar species with a boreal-montane distribution. In North America, this species occurs across Canada and extends south into the continental U.S. in the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes states and in New England. In Alaska, this species occurs from the northern flanks of the Brooks Range southward, common throughout central Alaska, southcentral and the west coast, though it is rarely reported from the Aleutians or Southeast. Nagoonberry is widespread in Denali, from the lowlands to the alpine, and occurs on both sides of the Alaska Range.
Nagoonberry is an abundant species that prefers low and moderate southern slopes, in the alpine. Wide elevational range, from 80 to 1402 meters, but this species is most common in the alpine. It is most likely to be found at 900-1100 meters, though its presence declines dramatically on sites above 1100 meters.